At CES 2011, LG is going to launch the LG ST600 Smart TV Update, a box that makes your “dumb” TV connected, smart, and hopefully cool. LG sees this as good intermediate step while we’re transitioning from “TV” to “Broadband TV”, to “Smart TV”. LG’s own definition of Smart TV is a television that gets content from a wider range of online channels and services, including not only premium content, but also “long-tail” (DYI, small publishers) content. A Smart TV would also be able to download and run “apps” (applications) as well. Finally, it should browse the web and offer a full web experience, which implies support for Flash. We’ll have to see what LG has in store for us, how good the web browser is and whether or not it will be blocked by Hulu and the TV Networks.
Here’s what the user interface (UI) for the LG ST600. On the right, you can also see screens for Premium content, and apps and Smart Share, which is a social-network aspect of the LG Smart TV. At first, the home screen doesn’t look very remote friendly, but that’s because it doesn’t use a regular remote. Instead, the interface relies on LG’s “magic wand” remote introduced earlier. To be fair, the magic wand works pretty well when there are more icons on the screen as it is simply faster to point and click than passing over UI elements one by one.
At the moment, the App Store will be LG’s own platform, and that always begs the question: “will they have enough apps”? (the second being “is it open, if and not, why?”). It’s hard to tell what developer adoption will be, but if LG can launch with a good selection, the first experience won’t be bad. Between Netflix, Vudu and the web browser, it seems like things could start well. That said, we wonder if Networks (and Hulu) will block that browser too.
But LG is not the only one that can make TVs smart, and they will have to fight (or use) products like Google TV or Boxee. However, if LG does that, it will have a harder time differentiating against competitors.
PS: You might be interested by our “Smart TVs are here, but what are they?” story.