LG Electronics will be showcasing mobile television products and technologies that are capable of providing stereoscopic images and free viewers from wearing special glasses that are required in other forms of 3D television viewing. / Courtesy of LG Electronics
By Kim Tong-hyung
It’s the time of the year when all eyes in the technology sector get glued on Las Vegas for the newest version of the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the lavish geek heaven that descends every January.
And unlike the previous events, which had been dominated by the black-and-silver army of flat-screen televisions, it seems that 2011 is shaping up as the year of the tablet.
More than 2,500 technology companies around the world are to participate in the Jan. 6 to 9 CES, claimed as the world’s largest consumer technology trade show that attracts around 126,600 visitors each year.
Tablets ― the portable, touch-screen computers like the Apple iPad, which now frequently appear on must-have gadgets lists ― will highlight the slew of next-generation products to be touted by technology companies in Las Vegas, according to companies here preparing for the exhibition.
These products will offer a glimpse of the future shaped and defined by Internet connectivity, with mobile Internet and cellular connections being introduced to a growing number of products, including mobile Internet devices, televisions, home appliances and cars, they said.
The CES will also serve as a crucial audition for Korean industry giants Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics, which are desperate to pass the coolness test of global consumers after being upstaged by companies such as Apple in mobile devices in past years.
Although the Koreans have been maintaining an impressive share in their main markets of consumer electronics and mobile phones, they have yet to establish a reputation for ground-breaking products and technology.
So obviously, the gadgets Samsung and LG bring to the CES will be dissected and debated by observers, who had been criticizing the companies for their lack of creative input in products.
LG, the smaller of the two Korean electronics rivals, is certainly the one showing more urgency as it looks to recover from a miserable 2010 when it committed blunder-after-blunder in smartphones and other mobile Internet devices. The company has yet to provide a smartphone that could compete with the iPhone and BlackBerry, but has high hopes that the upcoming Optimus 2X will be its first.
The Optimus 2X, which could be reaching Korean and European consumers as early as January, is powered by a dual-core Tegra 2 processor running at 1 gigahertz (GHz), which LG says is the first configuration to be officially announced by any smartphone manufacturer. LG insists that the dual-core processor will deliver higher performance and play video and games smoother than devices powered with single-core chips. The phone will be released with Google Android 2.2, known as ``Froyo,’’ and will be upgradeable to Android 2.3, or ``Gingerbread.’’
LG will also unveil its first tablet computer, which will be powered by ``Honeycomb,’’ a version of the Android mobile operating system designed for tablets and ``netbooks,’’ or mini laptops, in Las Vegas, according to industry sources. The tablet will feature an 8.9-inch touch screen, bigger than Samsung’s 7-inch Galaxy Tab but smaller than Apple’s 10-inch iPad.
Samsung was one of the few companies other than Apple to generate noise in the tablet market this year, after selling more than 1.2 million of its Galaxy Tab devices. Samsung is expected to reveal the newer version of its Galaxy Tab at the CES, as it looks to exploit a global tablet market that will reach 50 million units in 2011, from 15 million this year, according to the estimations by technology research firm Gartner.
Other companies looking to unveil their tablets at CES include Microsoft, which is planning a slew of Windows-based devices built by manufacturing partners like Samsung and Dell, Hewlett Packard (HP) and Motorola.
Samsung currently has one of the world’s best selling Android phones in the Galaxy S and is likely to reveal the updated version of the phone in Las Vegas.
'Smart' TVs gaining traction
The previous CES event featured a wealth of raw Internet-enabled and three-dimensional (3D) televisions, but the technology companies are ready to showcase more polished products this time around.
Samsung will be announcing a series of connected televisions, dubbed as ``smart TVs,’’ as well as hundreds of new applications it had been developing for viewers. LG will be unveiling its first connected televisions based on its newly-developed platform, ``NetCast 2.0.’’
However, a letdown for the connected television movement is Google’s troubles in fine-tuning its software for Web-enabled televisions. Google already has deals with major television makers like LG, Sony, Toshiba and Sharp for its Internet televisions, but recently asked its partners to delay the introductions of their products, citing more time to refine its software.
In the 3D television front, LG plans to unveil its 3D-equipped mobile television products and technologies that are capable of providing stereoscopic images on fast moving vehicles and free viewers from wearing those clunky, special glasses required in other forms of 3D viewing.
Samsung and LG are pushing different technologies for their mainstream 3D televisions, with Samsung opting for active shutter glasses to create simulated 3D effect, compared with LG, which favors passive 3D technology that allows for much cheaper glasses. Needless to say, the companies will be paying close attention to the reactions for their 3D televisions at CES.
Lee Jae-yong, one of Samsung Electronics presidents and heir apparent to company chairman Lee Kun-hee, and Koo Bon-joon, who replaced a struggling Nam Yong as LG Electronics’ chief executive officer (CEO), will head the list of high-profile Korean executives at the CES. They will be roaming the corridors of the Las Vegas Conventional Center to get a touch of the latest industry trends and exchange views with the likes of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Sony Chairman Howard Stringer. However, Apple and its charismatic CEO Steve Jobs, predictably, won’t be coming to the CES.
Yoon Boo-keun, the head of Samsung’s television business, will be giving a keynote speech at the CES titled ``A story of human nature enabled by technology,’’ company officials said.