You can't get through a discussion about next-generation TV sets without bringing up the topic of 3D, but maybe we have it all wrong. Perhaps we should be talking about Internet-connected TVs instead. Quite frankly, we're a little surprised this hasn't been given more attention already. Nevertheless, ABI Research predicts that by 2013, some 46 percent of flat panel TVs will come with an Ethernet port, up from only 19 percent today.
"New features will include media guides/browsing, Web browsing, and more tightly integrated social and information-based datasets," said industry analyst Michael Inouye.
Internet-connected TVs will also open the door for new ways to advertise and cross-market products.
"TV makers no longer want to build 'dumb screens,'" says Inouye. "Rather than simply selling boxes, TV makers themselves could try to secure part of the revenue generated by ads their devices present."
Things just got a whole lot tougher for HDTV makers, or at least those hoping to slap an Energy Star label on the box. That's because the new Energy Star 4.0 standard has officially gone into effect, and passing muster is no easy task.
As part of the new standard, the maximum amount of power an Energy Star TV can consume has dropped by about 40 percent, and any television manufactured on or after May 1, 2010 must meet this requirement in order to qualify for an Energy Star 4.0 logo. Models that are only 3.0 compliant can still qualify for the logo, but they must have been manufactured no later than April 30, 2010.
The newly stringent requirements come as a welcome change to environmentalists. Under the outgoing 3.0 specification, a 50-inch HDTV could consume 318 watts when turned off and still qualify for the Energy Star logo, but under the 4.0 specification, that same set would not be allowed to consume any more than 153 watts to be considered Energy Star compliant.
This means that several TVs will drop from the EPA's online list of compliant televisions, but at the same time, several manufactures are already looking ahead with Energy Star 4.0 compliant models slated for a 2010 release, including ones from Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, and Vizio.
Looking further ahead, Energy Star 5.0 will go into effect on May 1, 2012 and reduce power requirements even more. TV sets 50 inches and larger will be able to consume no more than 108 watts when 5.0 goes into effect.
Samsung is pretty confident that this whole 3D craze is much more than just a temporary phase. So much so that the electronics maker is absolutely certain it will reach its goal of selling two million 3D LCD TVs around the world in 2010, and probably more, according to Samsung Taiwan president Smile Kim.
Kim says his company is planning to launch 46-inch and 55-inch 3D LED-backlit models in the Taiwan market next month for about $4,100 and $5,950, respectively. Both models will include two pairs of of 3D glasses and free 3D movies, though Kim didn't say how many.
Kim also talked up the overall specifications of Samsung's 3D LED TVs, including high contrast ratios, energy savings up to 50 percent, Internet access, and connectivity options to other electronics, such as handsets, notebooks, and more.
Those of you waiting for prices to come down will have to be patient. Kim added that Samsung typically drops prices of its products no more than twice, and that the company's LED-backlit TVs won't see much change in 2010.
Chrome is fast becoming ubiquitous with bling, and if that's the case, Sceptre's new line of 24-inch HD LCD TVs bring the bling like no other displays you've ever seen before.
Sceptre describes the new line as "chic" and "sleek," but no matter what you call it, the all-chrome bezel is sure to turn heads. That might have been Sceptre's intention all along.
"We design our television monitors to not only perform exceptionally, but to also look exceptional in any home," said Cathy Chou, vice president of operations, Sceptre. "When it comes to form and function, we, at Sceptre, like to push the industry envelope."
Behind the bezel sits a 24-inch 1080p full HD LCD display. Sceptre measures the response time at 2ms (G to G). Other specs include a 4000:1 dynamic contrast ratio (1000:1 static), dual HDMI and USB ports, 300 cd/M2 brightness, built-in speakers, and viewing angles measured at 170 L/R and 160 Up/Down.
In addition to chrome, Sceptre's also offering its new set in black, red, pink, and blue, all of which are available now for $400.
Like it or not, 3D is destined for your living room, and there's a race to get there first (just ask Panasonic and Best Buy). But how much can you expect to plunk down on a fancy new 3D television set?
Samsung answered that question today by announcing the availability and pricing info for its next-generation lineup of LED HDTVs, including several 3D-capable units. The least you can expect to pay for 3D, at least for a Samsung set, is $2,000, which buys you a 40-inch HDTV. Pricing goes up from there, all the way to $7,000 for a 55-inch set due out in April.
"Our commitment to innovation has always been strong. We’re not only delivering elegant design and eco-friendly energy consumption, but we’re adding a new dimension to superior home entertainment through a broad lineup of 3D LED TVs," said John Revie, vice president of Home Entertainment for Samsung Electronics America. "We are passionate about this year’s LED TV lineup as we once again raise the bar on technology innovation by delivering a superior TV experience and leadership in the HDTV space."
While Samsung announced 27 new models in all, 8 of them will come with built-in 3D (C7000, C8000, and C9000 series). All of these include Samsung's Real240Hz refresh rate technology and are compatible with major 3D format standards, the company said.
See here for a full list of details and new models.
Verizon and Showtime have teamed up to announce the launch of the first nationwide, HD interactive television application using EBIF (Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format). Verizon FiOS TV subscribers will get the first look at the new Showtime Sports Interactive, which will include voting, polling, and fighter profiles, during the live Strikeforce Challengers MMA telecast tonight at 11PM EST.
"Showtime has been leading the industry with digital enhancements and Interactive TV for over a decade. With the launch of Showtime Sports Interactive, we are excited to be joining Verizon at the forefront, bringing this state-of-the-art feature to Showtime HD," said Robert Hayes, senior VP and GM of digital media at Showtime Networks. "Showtime continues to innovate and provide value-added features to our subscribers and our sports programming provides the perfect setting for the 'lean forward' experience that is now possible with Interactive TV."
SSI subscribers will be able to access fighter stats, records, bios, and quotes, as well as vote in polls, participate in trivia games, and access fight calendars, all while watching Showtime, the companies said.
Boy has it been a tough year or so for those who took the plunge into HDTV territory back when bulky rear-projection units were all the rage. Since then, skinnier, brighter units have emerged, many of which cost less than their chunky counterparts.
The latest thin-framed HDTV to emerge comes from LG, who just announced a line of plasma sets measuring a scant 25mm thick (for those who shake an angry fist at the metric system, we'll save you the Google conversion - 25mm breaks down to just less than an inch thick).
That's right, LG chose to go plasma for its 'Skinny Frame' line, as the company has dubbed them. LG says the new HDTVs come capable of a 600Hz refresh rate with 1080p support. They also come with three HDMI ports and a single USB port.
LG's releasing these first in its home market of Korea. The 50-inch model will run about $1,500, while the 60-inch unit checks in at about $3,325.
If OLED's the future, where does the technology fit into the present? Not anywhere, according to Sony, at least when talking about high definition television sets. Sony announced plans to end sales of OLED sets in Japan until costs come down.
Probably a good idea too, considering the only model Sony released was an 11-inch set that commanded roughly $2,222. That's barely larger than most netbooks, but a whole heck of a lot more expensive, to state the obvious.
This doesn't mean that Sony is turning its back on OLED technology in general, the company just wants no part in selling obscenely overpriced displays. Instead, Sony said it will focus on research and development, and may even dabble in overseas production.
"We will continue to consider new products and applications including OLED TVs," Sony spokesman Shigenori Yoshida said.
HP is pretty geeked about the upcoming season of "Project Runway" on Lifetime, in which contestants will have the option of using computers to sketch designs. Can you guess which PCs they'll be using?
"Technology is what's next in fashion design. Forward-thinking designers are exploring new ways to use technology in the design process," said Barbara Schneeweiss, vice president of Production and Development for TV and Feature Film at The Weinstein Company.
Throughout the season, you'll see contestants ditch their sketchpads in favor of Intel-equipped HP TouchSmart PCs and TouchSmart tm2 notebooks. Expect to see a lot of the tm2, which can be rotated and converted to slate mode.
Next season's winner will walk away with a $50,000 prize package from HP and intel to create, design, and run their own business.
This year has been a very good one for video streaming site Hulu. What started out as a niche product for the more tech-savvy, has broken through into the mainstream community. Hulu CEO Jason Kilar wrote in a blog post that Hulu has over 43 million unique visitors. That’s a 95% increase over one year ago. As the number of visitors goes up, the number of streams goes up even faster, having nearly tripled since April. The ad campaign that kicked off during the Superbowl likely started the ball rolling.
The overall amount of content on Hulu has also increased dramatically, going from 5600 hours of premium content, to over 14,000 hours. All those programs are being bought up by even more advertisers as well. Hulu has gone from 166 advertisers up to 408.
Also of note is the launch of the Hulu desktop application this year. After a long battle with Boxee, Hulu at least gave users an alternative way to view content. With all the good news, it’s easy to forget the rumors swirling around about internal battles between content owners and those running Hulu. And let’s not forget the possible pay model we’ve been hearing about. Hopefully, Hulu can get all this worked out while still preserving the good will they currently enjoy.