Tag Archives | LG

CES Pay for Play? No Way

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from an employee of Ogilvy, a gigantic public-relations firm, that I found startling:Now, I get strange, questionable propositions over the transom–this one arrived via Technologizer’s contact form–all the time. I also receive offers which I choose to decline, such as ones involving companies footing the bill for travel to their media events. But a big PR firm offering what amounted to cash payments for coverage on behalf of a major tech company was a new one.

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You Have a Strange Definition of “Unlimited,” Republic Wireless

A stealthy startup named Republic Wireless has launched, based on a concept that’s enough to grab anyone’s attention, at least momentarily: unlimited voice, data, and texting for $19 a month. The company says it’s going to make that possible by routing as much stuff as possible over Wi-Fi networks, and utilizing Sprint’s cellular network where necessary.

There are several catches. For one thing, Republic will only support one phone at first: LG’s Android-based Optimus, running Republic’s custom software. (The first-month fee of $199 gets you the Optimus.) For another, the service won’t offer international calling for now. Republic cheerfully concedes these points.

But there’s another gotcha which the company’s site tapdances around: It claims it’s offering unlimited service, but also says that it’s possible to use the service in a manner that isn’t “reasonable” and which violates a “fair use threshold.”

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IFA: LG’s Net-Connected Appliances

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Way back when, LG introduced a refrigerator that–for reasons which were unclear at the time–ran Windows 98. The company’s still at it. As I wandered around the numerous halls at the IFA electronics trade show here in Berlin, I stumbled on LG’s booth, where a demo of its Smart ThinQ appliances (which, I assume, are powered by something other than Windows 98) was in progress.

The line includes a refrigerator, a washing machine, a microwave oven, and a robotic vacuum cleaner; all use Wi-Fi to connect to the Net and work with smartphone apps. For instance, you can manage a shopping list on the fridge and zap it to your phone and back. (The fridge screen also runs Facebook and various entertainment apps.) You can download new wash cycles from your phone to the washing machine, as well as adjust the cycle on the fly. And you can use a smartphone app to download receipes to the oven.

If nothing else, I admire LG for showing patience with this concept. Wonder how many of the appliances they’re selling, and whether folks continue to use the techy features after the novelty wears off?

A couple more photos after the jump. (Full disclosure: I spoke at IFA on a panel, and the conference orgaziners covered my travel costs.)
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The Curse of 3D TV, Continued


[At Panasonic’s booth, IFA attendees use glasses to view 3D images of the women performing right there in front of them.]

Last year, I attended the IFA consumer-electronics megaconference in Berlin. The exhibitions of the big manufacturers were utterly dominated by 3D TVs. All that blurry 3D hurt my eyeballs, put me in a bad mood, and prompted this rant.

This year, I’m back in Berlin for IFA. There’s still scads of 3D, but it’s not quite as omnipresent as last year. Whether companies are losing interest or simply recalibrating their expectations to something more in line with consumers’ level of interest in this stuff, I’m not sure.
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LG and Windows Phone 7: High Expectations, Low Sales

Microsoft may have a problem on its hands if its partners feel free to publicly criticize its phone efforts like this. LG’s marketing and planning chief James Choi has gone on record with Pocket-lint saying that Windows Phone 7 sales have been disappointing for the company.

Choi claims that the company had high hopes for the new mobile OS at the beginning. While he stressed that LG had been working with Microsoft “since the beginning” and WP7 is “absolutely perfect” for some mobile users out there, he lamented that “the first push wasn’t what everyone expected.”

While Choi seems to walk the fine line between saying that the launch really failed to grab consumers’ attention and playing the role of the loyal partner, it just seems odd that this early out of the gate that Microsoft’s partners feel free enough to say something like this. It certainly does not help the Redmond company’s cause at all.

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CES 2011: More Internet Video to Flow to TVs, PCs and Smartphones

Wednesday is Press Day here at CES, a day when major consumer electronics players like LG, Netgear and Intel traditionally make big announcements in advance of the full show that starts tomorrow. If there’s an underlying message here in Las Vegas so far, it’s that companies are getting the word that consumers want to view more content–whether Hollywood- or user-generated–from and over the Internet, on devices ranging from TVs to PCs and smartphones.

In delivering a roadmap of LG’s TV plans for 2011 today, Tim Alessi, LG’s director of new product development for home electronics, listed “more content to watch”  – together with connectivity to home networks and easier-to-use 3D TV – as the three key linchpins for the year ahead.

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Windows Phone 7 Handsets: Initial Questions and Answers

I spent this morning liveblogging Microsoft’s official Windows Phone 7 kickoff here in New York. Even though there wasn’t a lot of brand-new news–Microsoft started showing off the OS months ago, and some of the hardware news had leaked–there was still lots to chew on. Herewith, a few early impressions based on experiencing the keynote and spending twenty minutes fiddling with the phones on display here.

How’s the interface?

We already knew that Windows Phone 7 was an inventive approach to mobile interfaces that owed little either to earlier versions of Windows or the iPhone. (It is, however, reminiscent of the Zune HD and certain aspects of Xbox 360 and Windows Media Center.) It features Tiles (big icons that can display constantly-updated information in a widgety fashion), screens that slide to the left to reveal more stuff (like the iPhone and Android desktops, but inside apps as well), and other distinctive ideas. Judging from the time I spent with some phones this morning, the level of overall polish and fluidity is very good.

It’s not an iPhone-style great leap forward,, but I can certainly imagine some folks actively preferring it to the iPhone interface. And given that Android’s interface remains so-so and the future of HP/Palm’s WebOS on phones is somewhat murky, Windows Phone 7 could end up being the iPhone’s most serious competitor from a usability standpoint.

Any other unique benefits?

Windows Phone 7 has built-in Office apps with editing (although I need more time with them to judge whether they’re better than third-party suites for other phones). It lets you subscribe to music using Microsoft’s Zune Pass service; solid subscription music services are available for other platforms, but they’re not integrated into the OS. Speaking of integration, the music player has an API that permits third-party services such as Slacker to show up–Microsoft’s demo this morning mentioned this feature but didn’t really show how it works.

Window Phone 7 also has lots of hooks into Facebook, Windows Live, and other social networks–it grabs and melds information from them, lets you issue updates and upload photos, aims to make it as easy to browse photos on Facebook as it is to view ones on the phone, etc., etc. This social stuff is ambitious for sure, but I want to live with it for a while before deciding whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. (I’m instinctively skeptical of phones that aim to support social networks through built-in features rather than excellent stand-alone apps–the disaster known as Microsoft Kin shows how hard it is to pull that off.)

What’s that image at the top of this post?

During this morning’s presentation, Steve Ballmer and company reported all the catch phrases on that slide so often that I almost began chanting along. To some degree, they’re just marketingspeak–no company is going to say that its new product is occasionally delightful, adequately mine, and a sluggish hassle. But Windows Phone 7 is the first evidence I’ve ever seen that Microsoft understands how to make a pleasant, efficient, modern mobile operating system–which has absolutely nothing to do with cramming the Windows interface onto a tiny screen.

What’s missing?

Let’s see. Multitasking for third-party apps; cut and paste (which is coming early in 2011); massive quantities of great apps; the assumption that virtually every new app will be available for your phone; a movie/TV service as comprehensive as iTunes; an ecosystem of accessories to rival the iPhone. I also didn’t see any way to swap out Bing as the default search engine in favor of anything else. (To be fair, the Bing services–including voice search and Maps–look good.) None of these omissions render the operating system DOA, but they need to get fixed, and Microsoft has little time to dawdle. Windows Phone 7 2.0 or Windows Phone 8 or whatever the next version is called needs to fill in most of the obvious holes.

What about big-name third party apps?

Microsoft had surprisingly little to say about that today. It demoed eBay and IMdB, plus a couple of games (including The Sims). The phones that attendees could try out had a few other name-brand apps, including Twitter (which looks similar to the Android version) and Fandango. But I didn’t see Facebook or Foursquare or Bejeweled or other apps that I try to install on a new phone as soon as I get it. (Foursquare has been demoed in the past.)

I do feel hopeful that Microsoft will get one thing right that Google has failed to do so far: doing everything in its power to ensure that third-party apps have a look and feel that’s consistent with the overall interface. All the ones I’ve seen so far, such as eBay, truly feel like Windows Phone 7 programs.

How’s the hardware?

I think it’s a smart move that Windows Phone 7 will be on three AT&T handsets, each based on a 1-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU and a five-megapixel camera, and each going for $199.99 on contract–but each with its own personality and none resembling the iPhone all that closely. The LG Quantum has a physical keyboard; the HTC Surround has slide-out Dolby Mobile/SRS speakers; the Samsung Focus has a 4.3″ Super AMOLED display. The Focus goes on sale on November 8th, and the other two will follow within a few weeks.

A couple of early hands-on impressions: The Focus feels like a cousin of Samsung’s Galaxy S phones, with an impressively thin case and a display that delivers very, very vivid colors. (Whether they’re too vivid compared to a good LCD is a matter of opinion.) The Quantum’s slide-out landscape keyboard felt pretty good by slide-out landscape keyboard standards, but the slider mechanism was oddly stiff. (This may have been due to interference from the bracket for the cable that fastened the phone to the demo station.)

What’s the deal with AT&T?

It seems to be more serious about Windows Phone 7 than it’s been about Android to date–it’s Microsoft’s “Premier” wireless company for now, and the initial lineup of handsets looks decent. It also looks like AT&T has integrated some of its own stuff (including an app for its U-Verse TV service that’s available both to subscribers and non-subscribers) without munging up the Windows Phone 7 experience. Here at the event, I spoke with David Christopher, Chief Marketing Officer of AT&T’s wireless unit, and he seemed genuinely enthusiastic about Windows Phone 7. Would it surprise you to hear that he cheerfully refused to answer direct questions relating to AT&T’s iPhone exclusivity and whether the new Microsoft phones will help the carrier prepare for the era of the Verizon iPhone?

What are Windows Phone 7’s chances?

Ooh, I was afraid you’d ask that. It’s unknowable at this point, really. Microsoft let Apple build up an unimaginably gigantic lead in the market for next-generation smartphones, and now it has to catch up with Android, too. It’s incredibly daunting, and these phones–which are version 1.0 products despite the “7” in the name–aren’t going to get Microsoft anywhere close to parity. On the other hand, I’m impressed with Windows Phone 7 overall–and I can’t think of a different strategy that the one Microsoft seems to be following that would have a better shot at success. This is going to be fun to watch…


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LG Backs Off Android 2.2 Tablet; Pressure’s on, Samsung!

Last we heard about LG’s Android tablet, marketing vice president Chang Ma was promising that it’d be better than the iPad. Now, the tablet is reportedly on hold while LG looks for a better version of Google’s mobile operating system.

LG is squeamish about Android 2.2, also known as Froyo, an unnamed company official told Reuters, and is talking with Google to figure out the best version to run instead. Google’s director of mobile products, Hugo Barra, told TechRadar last month that Android 2.2 is “not optimized for use on tablets.” In all likelihood, LG will use Android 3.0, which is rumored to support tablets in earnest.

All of this puts Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, an Android 2.2 tablet and the de facto iPad rival of the moment, in an awkward position. Barra’s comments were embarrassing enough for Samsung, which plans to sell the Galaxy Tab through wireless carriers this holiday season. LG’s vote of no confidence in Froyo raises more red flags.

What this mainly comes down to, as Harry pointed out in his Galaxy Tab hands-on, is apps. Samsung has developed a batch of its own to make the best of a 7-inch display, but the Android Market offers only smartphones apps, enlarged to fill the screen or centered in the middle of a thick, black border. It’s not the ideal tablet experience, but it’s something.

The Galaxy Tab is a gambit. Samsung must be fully aware that soon after Google announces a tablet-friendly version of Android, the market’s going to be flooded with devices. To avoid becoming part of the pack, of which LG is now a part, Samsung is committed to firing first — optimized experience be damned.


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Dick Tracy Watch from LG/Orange

(This post is part of the Traveling Geeks tech tour of Paris. David Spark (@dspark) is the founder of Spark Media Solutions and a tech journalist that blogs at Spark Minute and can be heard and seen regularly on ABC Radio and on John C. Dvorak’s “Cranky Geeks.”)

At the end of the first day of the Traveling Geeks tour in Paris, we went to the demonstration labs of Orange, the European telco company. They showed us what they’re offering in the areas of IPTV and 3D TV. Completely unrelated, I saw a quick demo of a very cool Internet watch by LG that can do video conferencing. Cool phone, but you now need to find the second person who has that watch just so you can have a video chat. Same problem I have with my Nokia N82. It has video conferencing and I’ve never used it. I haven’t found a second person who has the phone. Check out the video. BTW, the quality is much better, but I shot it with a Flip video camera and it doesn’t have macro focus so that’s why it’s a little blurry.


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Video Streaming Box Announcements of the Week

Netgear Entertainer Live ($150)

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The new Netgear Entertainer Live (EVA2000) was originally announced as a VuNow platform device at Netgear’s CES press conference back in January. At that time, I saw the unnamed Netgear product demo-ed using VuNow’s non-distinctive hardware, but has since been repackaged with some left over Netgear router enclosures. In addition to YouTube and CinemaNow VOD access, and unlikeRoku’s similar small box solution, the EVA 2000 is also capable of streaming a wide variety of local media. PlayOn is supported (and offered at a discount), but that PC-based software hack is only interesting until Hulu drops the hammer (technically or legally). However, this $150 box should gain a bit more traction thanVerismo’s VuNow with the Netgear brand and retail relationships.

LG BD390 Blu-ray Player with Vudu ($400)

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Vudu continues to execute on their hardware diversification strategy as LG announces a network upgrade to their existing 802.11n-capable Blu-ray player. The smooth Vudu experience and extensive HD video-on-demand library joins Netflix on YouTube on the well-regarded connected BD390. While the $400 MSRP may seem a bit steep for what it offers and compared to the Sony unit below, this box can be found online for significantly less. We’re hopeful of taking a look at a review loaner in the near future.

Sony BDP-N460 Blu-ray Player with Bravia VOD (~$250)

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Sony just unveiled a new Bravia-connected device at CEDIA. The BDP-N460 Blu-ray Player will be available in October “for about $250″ and features “Bravia” Internet services, including video-on-demand, YouTube, Slacker, and Netflix streaming. While it doesn’t incorporate the type of wireless connectivity found in the LG BD390 above, Sony’s upcoming model sure looks aggressively priced to boost holiday sales.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)


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