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January 06, 2014

LG Delivers Smart TV Using Its webOS Platform�Finally - Look For it at CES

Back in February 2013 Hewlett-Packard (News - Alert) and LG announced that LG had decided to acquire the webOS assets owned by HP at the time. WebOS has had a relatively long but alas sadly undistinguished career due for the most part to the failures of both HP and Palm (its original developer) to do anything intelligent with it. For a short while it was placed by HP into the public domain, where it predictably languished. We've been following webOS since the Palm days and have long waited for it to be put to use in some legitimate way - though we had anticipated it would first find its way into LG mobile devices.

It was interesting to us last year that LG opted to pick it up - and we anticipated that LG would manage to do something useful with it. We did not expect it would be almost a year later before LG finally figured out what that "something" would be.

Regardless, LG has at long last pronounced to the world at large that webOS will power its next generation of Smart TVs. The company also announced that 70 percent of its new Smart TV line-up will be based on webOS. If you happen to be wandering the halls of CES (News - Alert) in Las Vegas this week do stop by LG's exhibit space and check it out - their CES team always puts on a good show and it will be worth the effort. LG has not as yet formally announced when the new Smart TV lineup will be available for purchase but we would expect them to become available before Q1 2014 is out.

Generally speaking "smart TVs" deliver direct Wi-Fi access, they connect wireless to the Internet, they are able to run some set of brand-provided apps (in the case of LG they would be LG apps), and they are able to stream content from the likes of Hulu and Netflix, among other content sources. In most cases they should also be able to access such sites as Amazon and Facebook (News - Alert) (through some of the brand-specific apps provided). They should also be able to associate and pair with your various mobile devices and be able to stream content (video and sound) from those mobile devices wirelessly directly on the TV screen.

Samsung Smart TVs can all do this already - ours certainly do, and they work with both iOS and Android (News - Alert).  We easily connect our iPhones, iPads and Galaxy S4 smartphones without a problem. At a minimum this set of features defines what a smart TV should be able to do. We won't dive into the "smart" part beyond this - obviously there are other possibilities (some of them associated with wearable tech) that will become part of the standard smart TV suite of features but the above described feature set will do for now.

One thing to note about LG of course is that if it owns webOS and if it puts webOS on both its smart TVs and mobile devices the company should ultimately be able to do a lot more than we've defined here. We certainly look forward to seeing what LG will do. But in the meantime and for initial release we can expect three specific things from LG smart TVs based on webOS:

The LG Simple Connection feature will guide users to set up their LG TV for the first time. During set-up, Bean Bird, an animated character will appear which will help users through various options. That's all we know about "Bean Bird" and we'll leave it at that. Samsung doesn't require an animated character for set up and in truth none were ever needed. We're not sure why LG thinks users need such an assistant but heck, it could prove to be fun.

The second LG feature is referred to as LG Simple Switching, which is supposedly LG's collection of brand-specific apps. Our understanding is that these apps will initially provide access to Amazon Instant Video, CinemaNow, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Twitter, MLB (News - Alert).tv and Vudu. We suspect there will be others that are not necessarily aimed at connecting to content services. Part of this feature will include an on-screen menu system that lets users easily switch between regular broadcast TV, LG's external content access and, whatever other multimedia capabilities a user might possess (such as a streaming media server).

Finally, LG Simple Discovery will - as the name suggests - allow users to "find" content. The smart TV will suggest content for the user - so we can add yet one more predictive layer on top of whatever the likes of Netflix and Amazon already bombard us with.

The new LG TVs will also supposedly deliver voice and gesture-based controls. Besides understanding voice commands it would be interesting to see if LG somehow integrates its newly announced and also webOS-enabled LifeBand Touch activity monitoring wearable tech device with the new TVs to enable wireless scrolling and menu selections through gestures.

As we noted earlier LG did not announce any delivery timeframes for any of the new webOS-based tech, including the LifeBand. Nor has it announced any pricing, but pricing will need to be highly competitive if LG expects anyone to give these new electronic toys any sort of a shot.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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