Samsung ‘Pushing Boundaries’ with TV sets

PC features allow users to share content across devices

Under the theme “Pushing Boundaries,” Samsung wants to make its new line of TVs the center of an entertainment hub in which viewers share content across devices.

The Korean electronics giant also used CES to show off ways to future-proof its TV sets so that buyers don’t have to purchase replacement sets as frequently — something consumers already are slow to do.

In a crowded ballroom at the Venetian Hotel and Casino, Samsung unveiled new “smart” hardware that integrates what was once considered the hallmark of personal computers, as well as voice and gesture controls.

Among the PC features are multitasking apps (so you don’t to quit your Netflix app to check game scores), slots in the back of the TVs to update software, and a large and rapidly expanding selection of apps.

They will also include a built-in video camera and microphone to enable video conferencing, and receive voice and gesture commands (a demo used a swiping motion to navigate channels and poking movement to press a button to make purchases).

The camera-equipped TVs will also have face recognition, so they can sense which family member is watching.

One app migrating from Samsung’s smartphones and tablets is the Samsung Media Hub, Samsung’s content store for buying movies and TV shows. Another app, with its origins in Hollywood gets its first TV-maker partner: Technicolor’s M-GO app, which puts bonus content on a handheld or tablet screen during a movie or TV show.

Samsung is the No. 1 TV brand for the sixth consecutive year, and took the lead in global market share in smartphones for the first time last year.

Tim Baxter, prexy of Samsung Electronics America, unveiled the company’s high-end ES 8000 TV line. Largest screen in the line is 75 inches, part of the smart TV line that will grow by 60% this year. All boast dual-core processors to permit app multitasking, and the slim bezels that are a trend across the TV industry.

On 3D TV, Baxter said Samsung has sold 12 million 3D TVs worldwide and half of those sold this year would be 3D enabled. He acknowledged, “We know there isn’t enough content to make 3D a must-have feature, so this year we’re putting the focus on building a library of 3D content that can be streamed.” Among those promised include SyFy’s “Battlestar Galactica” in 3D. Also coming to Samsung TV is “Angry Birds” as a streaming app. The on-demand streaming HD channel, free on Samsung TVs, will show “Angry Birds” animated shorts.

The greatest excitement at the presentation came from the unveiling of Samsung’s 55-inch OLED TV, which offers a picture bright and clear enough to be startling even at a distance. It has all the features of the other high-end Samsung TVs: dual-core processors, built-in camera and microphone, and 3D. No price point was mentioned.

Turning to smartphones and tablets, Kevin Packingham, senior VP of Samsung Telecommunications, unveiled the Galaxy Note 4G smartphone. The Note features a 5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED screen, and comes with a built-in stylus sensitive to 256 levels of pressure, allowing it to record anything from thin pen lines to full brushstrokes.

“It is the first device that captures the tactile artistry of pen and paper,” Packingham said.

The Galaxy Tab 7.7 tablet is also 4G LTE and will run through Verizon in the U.S. It features a Super AMOLED screen and an infrared emitter so it can be a universal remote.

Samsung is putting a lot of development into connectivity and sharing on its devices.

As Boo-Kuen Yoon, president of Samsung’s consumer electronics division, put it, “We must push boundaries. We must break down barriers that exist between devices. Connecting devices to each other is a perennial theme of CES,” but Yoon added that Samsung had put considerable effort into connectivity over the last year.

One example shown Monday: Company is beefing up its AllShare home-content-sharing software with AllShare Play, a new service that uses the cloud. With AllShare Play consumers can upload photos or video from their phones to their TV, then also share that content with other Samsung TVs elsewhere.

Baxter said the company “is doubling down on its wireless camera strategy,” bringing out a new line of still cameras and camcorders that integrate with Samsung phones, so phones can be used as a remote viewfinder and remote control; perform automatic wireless backup of photos and video; upload directly to Picasa, YouTube and Facebook, and email photos directly from the camera.

Wrapping up, company also previewed a line of thin Series 9 notebook computers, with features and form factor designed to compete with Apple’s Macbook Air.