There was no lack of news around tablets and 3D TVs out of this year’s CES. Personally, the Hub was hoping to see something really interesting in the world of HDTV such as an announcement around 4K (high resolution than 1080p) or the creation of content in Deep Color or x.v.YCC (yes, while our sets can display rich colors, there’s no content). Unfortunately there were no announcements from TiVo or Roku at the show. Apple which doesn’t exhibit at CES was hard at work on the Verizon iPhone. As reported earlier, the new release of Google TV was not spoken of but new partnerships with Vizio and Samsung were announced. Of all of the set top box players, Boxee made the most impressive announcements.
On the hardware front, Boxee announced a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device from partner Iomega that will run their software as well as a Boxee embedded TV from Viewsonic. Boxee stated how a new version of the software with Vudu and NetFlix video services are on the horizon. Also, Boxee announced their iPad app which will not only act as a Boxee remote but will allow you to run the Boxee software itself on the iPad. What was most impressive was Boxee’s content deal with CBS where shows can be purchased. If Boxee can set up a few more content deals like this, they could give Roku and Apple TV a run for their money.
LG also entered the set top box arena with their new Smart TV Upgrader box. This small black box has a similar form factor to the Apple TV and Roku. It will bring a wide variety of apps (NetFlix, Amazon VOD, Pandora, Vudu, YouTube, DLNA client) and content to your TV including a web browser. LG’s new line of Smart TVs will contain the same functionality. All of these devices will also have access to an app store hosted by LG. You can see an interactive demo here.
During a presentation worthy of Vegas (think lots of dancers and a kid dressed like Davey Crocket), Samsung articulated their vision for consumers which places the TV as the center of the digital hub. They highlighted how their new HDTVs would directly integrate with major cable and satellite providers including Comcast, Time Warner and DirectTV. Basically, the new sets would have functionality or apps that would eliminate the need to have a cable box or any other set top box attached (you can put books in the empty shelves of your entertainment center). What’s impressive is that Samsung is poised to support the different provider architectures out there. In the case of DirectTV, the various Samsung TVs in the house connect to their in-home DVR. In the case of Comcast, they could connect to their cloud for programming. This functionality also extends across other Samsung devices such as their Galaxy tablet. I wonder when they will support my stainless steel Samsung microwave?
Surprise! Samsung is also introducing an app store for all of its devices. The cross platform Adobe AIR was introduced as the technology to build apps in Samsung land. In reality, I wonder if developers will be able to utilize its cross platform capabilities. The Hub is concerned that the proliferation of app stores is not good for consumers or developers. For developers, they need to learn different technologies which limits the size of the market that can be reached. For consumers, it can potentially lock them into one company’s wares. For example, I will always have to buy my TV from vendor X since I purchased all of my apps from them. With all of this new tech from Samsung, I hope they do not forget how to make an HDTV with an incredible picture.
Finally, the folks at Motorola showed some impressive Andriod-based hardware including the Atrix 4G smartphone which can connect to your HDTV or function as a desktop or laptop computer. Also, they rolled out the Xoom Tablet which appears to be one of the few credible competitors to the iPad.