Samsung rethinks Smart TV

Samsung has redesigned its Smart TV interface in a bid to make customers use more of the devices’ functions beyond watching linear television.

Samsung demonstrates the Smart Hub functionality of its internet-connected TV sets at CES 2013.

The electronics company has replaced the traditional electronic programme guide with five swipeable screens that interweave live TV with on-demand content, social networks, Skype, content sourced from other connected devices and Smart TV apps. It will be the first screen users see when they turn on their television set.

The move means that content from brands, especially those that have built apps for the Smart TV ecosystem, is now more central to the experience.

A new service, dubbed T-commerce, will also allow brands to play a more central role in TV viewing. It can identify clothes actors are wearing or other items TV stars are interacting with on screen and allow users to purchase those products.

Other new functions include “S Recommendation”, a voice controlled service that suggests content based on the user’s past viewing habits – which takes into account the different viewing choices people make at different times of the day.

Samsung’s president BK Yoon said at the company’s presentation at CES in Las Vegas: “The content market is accelerating and people need easier, simpler ways to find and enjoy what’s important to them.”

HS Shin, the company’s head of visual display, added “Today we will see a giant step forward. It’s not just about new features it’s about changing the entire viewing experience.”
Alongside the new interface, Samsung also showcased its new Smart TV, the LED F8000, which it claims will be the largest commercially available television. It comes in a variety of sizes from 60 inches to 95 inches.

While “smart televisions” have been available on the market for some time, the devices have not yet reached mass adoption, largely due to their currently high price points. Brands and broadcasters have also been reluctant to offer their content on internet-connected TV services and some have questioned whether users really take advantage of the “smart” functionality.

Giles Cottle, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media, says Samsung’s CES press conference marked an “important but subtle change” in the rhetoric of the world’s largest TV panel manufacturer.

He adds: “What Samsung and its peers have learnt is that it is not just content, but user experience, that will win the battle for the living room. Long gone are the days when adding the likes of Netflix et al to a Smart TV platform would get punters and pundits alike salivating – that low-hanging fruit is long gone.”