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Samsung Roundtable – CES 2011  Print E-mail
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Written by Dick Ward   
Monday, 10 January 2011

CES isn’t all massive booths and packed show floors – there are plenty of meetings going on behind-the-scenes.  I was lucky enough to get an invite to a roundtable conversation with a few Samsung VPs and a select group of press members. The panelists included bigwigs from across Samsung’s operation, as well as a moderator and a translator to help out with some of the trickier questions.
  • Kevin Lee – Vice President, Smart TV Partnerships
  • Bong-Ku Kang – Senior Vice President, Product Marketing Group
  • Hyo-Gun Lee – Vice President Software Group R&D Team
  • John Revie – Senior Vice President Home Entertainment
There was a good deal of traffic and nearly everyone was delayed in getting to the panel, so rather than bother with lengthy introductions, things got rolling with questions right off the bat.

Q: Samsung has been using a new technology called PLS in some of its displays.  Is there any chance we’ll see this tech reach the consumer level?

Kevin Lee: Probably not.  PLS is made for specific products like medical equipment and we don’t have any plans to move it into the consumer space.

Q: Why not?

Kevin Lee: Though PLS provides a better picture and wider viewing angles, it is incredibly cost-prohibitive to make.  Currently we provide PLS in specialty products such as medical equipment where cost is less of an issue, but quality is essential.

Q: We’ve seen glasses-free prototypes from Sony and Toshiba as well as passive 3D displays from Vizio and LG.  Why are you sticking with active?

Kevin Lee:  When making TVs, our first and foremost concern is image quality.  Glasses-free technology is far from ready and passive technology cuts your resolution in half.  This may work fine for some, but Samsung puts the image first.

Q: You say that passive tech televisions won’t give you a Full HD picture, but doesn’t a set with a 4K resolution solve that?

Kevin Lee: Yes, a panel with a 4K resolution would provide an HD 3D picture, but it would be much more expensive than a 1080p television using active shutter tech.

Q: What is it that you believe consumers want from their connected TVs?

John Revie: Each person wants different things from their connected TV, which is why we’ve included web-browsing on our connected sets. To make it easier to get to the content you want though, we’ve got a few key features set aside for consumers.

Q: What are your plans for Google TV?

We have a Google TV enabled Blu-ray player and set-top box on the way, but we currently have no plans for creating a TV that utilizes the platform.

Q: CES announcements tend to be very US-centric, but what do you have planned for Europe and Australia in terms of connected content?

Kevin Lee:  All the Samsung apps are already available globally, and we have a few content partners like the BBC iPlayer.  We’re working on making more local content available in other countries.  “We welcome any partner who can provide attractive content.”

Q:  Have you run into any challenges in finding content partners for connected TVs, and if so what concerns do they have?

Kevin Lee: A good partnership needs a winning strategy and that’s what we do.  Our content partners haven’t had any particular concerns about internet equipped TVs.

Q:
Samsung is well known for its excellent LED backlit LCDs.  With this in mind, how long do you plan to continue making plasmas?

John Revie: Ah, the plasma question!

Kevin Lee: Plasma television production keeps getting cheaper, and that lets us give customers a large screen TV without a high price.  It’s also still a very good technology, and one that we see ourselves sticking with for the next ten years.

Q: I’ve read that you’re working with carbon nano tube (CNT) technology for backlighting.  Can you tell us when we’ll see this?

Bong-Ku Kang: We are working with CNT technology, but we’re working on a lot of other different new technologies too.  As with all new ideas there are both technical and cost limitations.  If it’s too costly to make or too difficult we won’t bring it to market.  

Q: On the show floor I had trouble with your new touchscreen remote.  It played some content but didn’t play others.  What’s the problem?

Hyo-Gun Lee
: That’s an issue of digital rights management (DRM) and we hope to make all video available in the future.  We’re currently working with content developers to make it happen.

Q: The new controller looks just like a smartphone.  Are there any plans for smartphones to be used as controllers?

Hyo-Gun Lee: This is in the works. The smart controller, smart phone and tablet are similar devices, and we hope to implement the same controller functionality on all of them.

Q: Can you elaborate more on 3D passive technology that’s being used by LG and Vizio?

Bong-Ku Kang:  “We don’t think that can last forever.”  It can’t be sustained long term.  There are a lot of limitations to the technology that aren’t present with active shutter glasses, which provides a Full HD picture.

Kevin Lee: We believe that image quality is the most important thing to our customers.  Passive technology reduces brightness and resolution, which means active tech provides a better picture.  That’s why most 3D TV manufacturers are sticking with active.

Q:  More and more smarter TVs are being brought into the home, but can the network handle that?  IF connected televisions become mainstream, will we get bogged down?

 Hyo-Gun Lee:  Other new devices like smartphones and tablets are taking up more bandwidth too, which will present us with issues and limitations.  Technology has always adapted in the past with ideas like adaptive streaming and will continue to do so in the future.

Q: When you quote figures like “one million 3D TVs sold in the US,” are you taking into account that all high-end Samsung televisions are 3D?  In other words, how do you know people are buying them because they’re 3D?

John Revie: That’s a great question and we don’t have any data on usage.  We do know that people tend to buy a new TV every five to seven years, which leads us to believe that even people that aren’t interested in buying 3D TVs now are interested in future-proofing for a time when they do.

Q:
What are Samsung’s plans for OLED televisions in the future?

Bong-Ku Kang:
We make quite a few OLED screens for devices like cell phones, but larger sizes are very expensive to manufacture.  Though are main focus is picture quality, price is important to think about.  An expensive format like OLED is currently impractical to make in larger sizes.






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