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Samsung Leading the Interactive TV Revolution

Google (s goog) and Apple (s aapl) are talking, hinting and teasing about their take on upcoming advances in television. Samsung, on the other hand, has all-too-quietly actually been adding new features to its stellar line up of LED backlit HDTVs with hardly any technical notoriety. Perhaps if competition in this space cared about more than just pixel depth, refresh rates, upscaling and dare I say 3D, we’d be able to see more details behind what’s going on in the race to completely remove the set-top box from the home entertainment center.

To wit, there are four aspects of what Samsung has to offer that any company interested in entering the consumer television market should take notice of: [email protected] Yahoo! Widgets, AllShare DLNA Media Sharing, Skype Video Calling, and iDevice Remote integration.

Yahoo! WidgetsSupport for Third Party Apps

You may recall Konfabulator, originally released in 2003 as a Mac OS X-only application before Apple came out with a very similar feature called Dashboard in its Tiger release in 2005. Yahoo (s YHOO) bought Konfabulator in 2005, and it’s now branded as Yahoo! Widgets.

Samsung has adapted its line of HDTVs to take advantage of this technology right out of the box via a feature it calls [email protected]. It needs no additional computer — no set-top box to wire up to the HDTV. Yahoo! TV Widgets come with the HDTV ready to run. All you need to do is connect the HDTV to the Internet. From Amazon Video on Demand (s amzn) to the latest movie rentals from Blockbuster, movie purchases for your in-the-cloud media library can be accessed directly from your HDTV without any intermediary set-top box or in-home device. You can even connect to your Pandora music stations.

There are Facebook, Twitter, Weather, News and Stock widgets that can all be accessed directly from the HDTV. While not quite the App Store just yet, the list of apps that Samsung has created is impressive to say the least.

DLNA CertifiedStreaming of Personal Media

Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) has the support of at least 200 companies and has been integrated into thousands of consumer devices. Neither Apple nor Google appear to be among the companies that support this specification. Prior to 2010, only devices — not software — were certified by the group. This would explain why certain software solutions work better than others with certain devices. What’s become quite popular with gaming consoles is to stream media from a PC or Mac directly to an XBOX 360 (s msft) or PS3 (s sne), as these two game consoles support UPnP/DLNA specification.

Samsung also supports the specification which negates the need to have a set-top box like an Xbox or PS3 to watch content off of your media server. You can directly connect a Samsung HDTV to your home network and access any DLNA server on the local network. The included server software from Samsung is PC only, but there are Mac alternatives like Twonky Media and NullRiver MediaLink that can turn any Mac into a DLNA server.

Skype VideoVoIP Video Calling

In some of the newer HDTV models that Samsung has been building, there is an optional component available that will enable Skype calling directly from your HDTV. For about the same price as an old iSight Camera, this Freetalk TV Camera can be attached to any Samsung LED HDTV (model C7000 to C8000) via USB (yes, Samsung HDTVs have USB ports).

A little more Jetson than Dick Tracy, both Samsung and Skype have been working together to make this FaceTime like feature a Family Room reality.

iDeviceiDevice Support

iDevice support is the extra mile. Samsung has created an iPhone App that can be used as a remote control for its HDTVs much like Apple’s Remote. The app controls basic features like volume and channel with touch gestures and accelerometer motions. The remote app can also serve as a game controller, supporting some of Samsung’s more advanced apps. In addition, companies like Bianor are creating iPhone Apps like iMediaShare, which allows iOS devices to instantly share photos via DLNA to any Samsung HDTV.

It all makes sense if you look at the diminishing size and awesome capabilities of a modern smart phone compared to the ever-increasing size of HDTVs. Including something like an iOS or Android device into a 46″ or larger HDTV seems almost trivial. The era of set-top boxes is about to come to an abrupt end. Partnering with Yahoo, DLNA and Skype has made today’s Samsung HDTVs a well-connected, powerful and complete out of the box iTV solution that both Apple and Google will have to catch up to.

12 Responses to “Samsung Leading the Interactive TV Revolution”

  1. Nobody mentions Sony. I know from owning one, the EX series Sony HDTVs have wireless network connectivity as do their Blu-Ray players with connectivity to Netflix, YouTube, Pandora,, MyPlay, among other entertainment and is DLNA certified.

  2. Vincent

    Come on guys. Any high-end TV today has DLNA embedded today(LG, Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, Philips, name it). Yahoo Widget is a dead proposition already (at least here in Europe). Samsung has demonstrated no strategic direction until now and seems to go wherevere the wind seems to be blowing. Google TV anyone ?

    • I have been surprised at how many people are completely unaware that Samsung has any of these capabilities. Skype’s availability on Samsung is more recent, and software slowly being certified for DLNA is more this year than last. For a while, software was only concerned with supporting XBOX and PS3 and there were compatibility issues on Samsung. There has also been several new apps added to the Yahoo! Widget lineup. I like having access to my Pandora radio channels on my HDTV, which was a recent addition. Did you see where Samsung also now has a Hulu Plus App? No hacking, rooting, or jailbreaking required. Again, while this is not breaking news, it is ‘real’. The breaking news is only ‘rumor’ and ‘speculation’.

  3. Is this some kind of a blast-from-the-past article?

    Yahoo, DLNA on TV rubbed shoulders with the Enron scandal (timeline wise). Skype on TV predates the iPad/Facetime (and now that already sounds long long ago). Yes, the iOS part sounds like news – although how long will this splash last is anyone’s guess. Because Samsung has Bada and an app store model around it – covering not just mobiles, but also TV and BluRay. The parting of ways between Samsung and Google no longer raises eyebrows. Apple can come in handy in this situation, but how long will this mutual admiration club hold on?

    STBs are not likely to become extinct soon, whether we’d like it or not. Two reasons. Firstly, churn. The rate at which new, interesting services are born is much faster than the rate at which we replace our (expensive) TVs. Secondly, content. Again, whether we like it or not, content monetization drives the content creation business. A horizontal (distribution) TV market is a constant threat to content revenues that a vertical (STB) market brings. Due to these reasons, there will always be STBs – offering you access to premium content for a few tens of dollars per month, in combo packs with triple or quadruple play. Most people (non-geeks) picking up 50inches of glass will not mind the loose change going out to the operators.

  4. Swisslakes

    I think Samsung going alone will not work, Google TV is a Platform by a company that have big share of the Net + Android OS + Chrome Browser.

    Google TV is all of the above from Samsung + Full Internet Browsing + HD Video Calling & Logitech expertise in Digital living room Accessories to support.

    even Sony coming with Google TV HD TVs

    • Google TV is vaporware unless proven otherwise. Remember that Google has lost it’s midas touch of late. Also “even sony coming with Google TV HD TVs..” is a weird statement – fact is, it is *only* Sony, (commanding a loosing position in the USA market) that has shown *some* interest in Google Tv. (yes, there is also logitech trying to see if they can do more than mice). Also, with Sony not indicating which parts of their range will sport GTV, I wouldn’t hazard a guess on the deployment. Rumors have it that this Sony white elephant will sport a traditional TV hardware plus the Intel CE4100 (with fans, ACs, what-have-you) – essentially, building a mini PC into the TV cabinet. Did I hear anyone say “not smart” or “expensive”? Someone from Japan, maybe ?

  5. I have an LG with Yahoo TV Widgets and I have to say that they are pretty lame from what I have seen. This coming from someone who loved him some Konfabulator back in the day. Not sure if you can add new widget to the LG because both times when I tried playing around with the feature it crashed after just a few minutes.