Samsung CES News Round-Up

--Launches AdHub Interactive Ad Platform for its Smart TV's, Partners with Rovi and YuMe
--Redesigns Smart Hub UI with "Smart Interactions" Voice- and Motion-Control, and Other New Features
--Reveals Plans to Future-Proof its Connected TV's via "Smart Evolution"
--Launches Camera System that Brings Connected-TV Functionality to Regular HDTV's
--Expects to Achieve 20 Million App-Downloads Milestone this Month
--Launches New Family-Focused Apps
--Partners with Rovio to Bring "Angry Birds" to its Connected TV's
--Partners with DirecTV to Enable "Boxless" Viewing
--Will Offer UltraViolet-Powered "Disc to Digital" Feature on its Blu-ray Players
--Demo's Pay-TV Apps from Comcast, TWC, Verizon FiOS TV on its Connected TV's
--Announces Winner of its "Free the TV Challenge"
--Movl Develops SwipeIt App to Stream Video from Smartphones to Samsung Connected TV's,

Samsung generated a fair amount of news at CES. Here is a round-up:

  • The company has launched Samsung AdHub, an interactive advertising platform for its Samsung Smart TV platform. "Through the newly announced AdHub service, brands can deliver 3D, video and interactive advertisements into the living room via Samsung's market-leading Smart TV's," it states in its press materials. "Samsung AdHub allows delivery of advertisements to the front page of Samsung's Smart TV interface, with multiple forms of compelling digital interactivity. Advertisements will be dynamic, allowing audiences to click to access video content, new applications and services, or the Web browser. The company's new Smart TV advertising platform will provide marketers and ad creatives new monetization models and opportunities to engage and interact with target audiences. Samsung AdHub also enables a unique 3D video advertising experience within the Samsung branded 3D VOD service, 'Explore 3D' application. Samsung is the first consumer electronics manufacturer to offer 3D advertising on smart TV's, giving advertisers new opportunities to create compelling and visually dynamic content in native 3D...Samsung has already begun running several campaigns from leading advertisers such as State Farm and Best Buy. The company has also formed advertising sales partnerships with Rovi and YuMe. Smart TV advertising has launched in Korea and the United States. Samsung expects to deploy its smart-TV in-app advertising solution in 2012. Smart-TV application developers will be able to incorporate in-app capabilities available through the Samsung SDK (Software Development Kit) 3.0 for Samsung Smart TV's." Said Daniel Park, VP of Samsung's Media Solution Center: "With Samsung AdHub, we are enabling a richer content ecosystem that will benefit advertisers, application developers and consumers. Samsung's global reach and expertise in smart TV is creating a unique and innovative way for marketers to reach audiences with exciting and interesting content. We are helping brands break creative boundaries. Our complete smart-TV advertising solution is another example of our commitment to drive innovation in the TV market. Our goal is to create new opportunities throughout the smart-TV value-chain; providing a platform for advertisers and developers to participate is a key element of this goal. Ultimately, we think this is a win for consumers, because a dedicated way for developers to monetize services will contribute to a richer, more robust content experience." More information on Samsung AdHub can be found here.
  • The company has redesigned its Smart Hub user interface to offer what it terms "more intuitive experiences. The new Smart Hub is now in full HD and is streamlined to offer users a more intuitive way to search and discover content via Smart Interactions," the company states in its press materials. It bills Smart Interactions as "an intuitive platform that uses Motion Control, Voice Control and Face Recognition commands for the TV. Smart Interaction complements the remote and seeks to offer users greater choice and convenience in how they control their home entertainment experience," the company's press materials continue. "For example, users can turn the TV on or off, activate selected apps or search for content in the Web browser simply by speaking in any of the 20 to 30 languages that are supported by the technology. With a wave of their hand, they can browse and choose a link or content via the Web browser. The built-in camera recognizes movement in the foreground and two unidirectional array microphones recognize voice at an incredibly accurate rate. Noise cancellation technology helps separate any background noise from the users' commands. Samsung's 2012 line of Smart LED and Plasma TVs also support connectivity with select wireless keyboards and mice, making it more convenient than ever for users to access and navigate content." Other elements of Samsung's revamp of the user experience of its connected-TV platform include: 1) the availability of a dual-core processor "to enable multi-tasking, so apps no longer need to be exited and relaunched." 2) A tabbed Web browser that allows users to open multiple pages at a time. 3) A Content Bar that "remembers" recent activities in order to enable "easy access to content." 4) The launch (sometime this year) of the company's Media Hub app--which is currently preloaded on Galaxy S smartphones and Galaxy Tabs--on its connected-TV platform. "The app offers consumers all-star entertainment and a diverse selection of movies and TV shows the day after they air, as well as past seasons of the shows," the company states in its press materials. "In addition, select movies will be available the day they are released on DVD." 5) AllShare Play, which "allows users to upload and share multimedia content with AllShare Play-compatible devices such as smartphones, tablets, cameras and computers."
  • The company has unveiled a feature called "Smart Evolution" which is designed to "future-proof" its connected-TV devices. "Here's how it works," it explains in its press materials. "A slot resides at the back of the Smart TV, where an Evolution Kit can be inserted to enable upcoming features and enhance performance. Because Samsung makes our own system-on-chip components, we are the only ones who can make this available. We'll include these slots on our 2012 TV's and deliver the kits in 2013 and beyond. More details on this will be available soon."
  • The company's Samsung Techwin America unit has unveiled inTouch, a camera system that is billed as bringing a connected-TV experience to ordinary HDTV's. "Boasting WiFi technology, 720p high-definition video and a range of pre-loaded apps and functionalities, including Skype, YouTube and full Web browsing, the Samsung inTouch brings the Internet-connected experience straight to the living rooms of consumers with ordinary HDTV's," the company states in its press materials. "The inTouch camera system offers an elegant and compact form factor that allows it to seamlessly blend in with the design of any home entertainment system or living room. The inTouch camera can be securely placed on top of an HDTV, shelf or table, and thanks to a tilt range of -30 degrees ~ 0 degrees, users can easily adjust the camera so that everyone can be in the shot. The Samsung inTouch offers an effortless connection to a wireless network, and hooking up the camera to an HDTV requires just one HDMI cable...Plugged into Skype and with an embedded mic and speakers, Samsung's inTouch camera system gives consumers the ability to connect with family and friends around the world in high definition, right from the comfort of their own living rooms...In addition to Skype, the Samsung inTouch camera system is also pre-loaded with a range of apps which instantly give any ordinary HDTV an Internet-connected makeover. Apps such as YouTube and Google News and Weather bring important information and entertainment right to the screen, and a Web browser allows consumers to fully access and enjoy all that the Internet has to offer. Navigation is also made easy with the inclusion of a palm-sized QWERTY keyboard which puts everything the consumer needs right at their fingertips and makes checking email or instant messaging with friends a breeze...The Samsung inTouch camera also offers an easy-to-use photos app that essentially transforms an HDTV into a high-definition picture frame. Consumers can snap still images at three megapixel resolution, or insert their own using the integrated USB port, which can be reviewed in a gallery or enjoyed in a slideshow. Images can also be shared with friends and family by uploading directly from the inTouch to many of today's popular social networking sites. The Samsung inTouch will be available March 2012 and will retail for $199.99."
  • The company has announced various new milestones for its Samsung Apps connected-TV app store. According to the company: 1) The store now offers over 1,400 apps and sees daily downloads of 50,000 worldwide. 2) The company expects to surpass the milestone of 20 million app downloads this month (it surpassed 10 million just last October). Apps launching this year include "Angry Birds" (see below), Bravo, Technicolor's M-GO, The Daily and VH1's "I Love the 80's Trivia."
  • The company has also unveiled several new family-focused apps: "Samsung's Family Story allows families to store and share content through cloud-based storage," it states in its press materials. "Family members can share photos, create slide shows, post memos and schedule events. They can access this content in and outside the home through their smartphones, tablets, PC's and Samsung Smart TVs; device compatibility will be expanded to include LCD refrigerators and smart digital cameras in the future. Family members can also share photos in real time by pushing photos to each member's TV screen through a 'live chat' feature, so keeping in touch with families has become much easier no matter where loved ones are. Fitness helps users track their fitness progress through indoor and outdoor activities in a more organized way. In addition to a diverse range of fitness content, users can connect their Samsung smartphone to their Smart TV using a mobile fitness app. They can also connect a Withings WiFi scale to their Samsung Smart TV's to help them track and monitor their weight progress. With selected apps, the TV's built-in camera will create a 'virtual mirror' so users can check their exercise poses against the instructors'. Families can also access a variety of educational video-on-demand content through Kids. Parents can reward their children with stickers and also monitor their TV time. In addition, entertainment fans will enjoy on-demand access to a diverse selection of movies and TV shows the day after they air, or watch past seasons of their favorite TV shows through Samsung's Media Hub app. Currently available on Galaxy S smartphones and Galaxy Tabs, Media Hub will also make select movies simultaneously available on the same day they are they are released on DVD. Samsung also announced they are working with NBCUniversal on delivering 'Battlestar Galactica,' one of the most influential sci-fi series in the past decade, to 3D. Samsung hopes to make this and subsequent NBCUniversal available for purchase through the Samsung Media Hub app."
  • The company has announced a partnership with Rovio to bring the latter's popular "Angry Birds" game to its connected TV's. "Samsung will also be working with Rovio to offer new animated 'Angry Birds' shorts on Samsung Smart TV's," the company states in its press materials. "This content will be available in 2012 on Samsung Smart TV models. Samsung TV's will become the first TV's to support the hit game without the need for an external set-top box...'Angry Birds' animations will be available later this year on the 'Angry Birds' TV channel through Samsung Apps, and will be compatible with 2010, 2011 and 2012 TV's."
  • The company has announced that it is partnering with DirecTV to "offer DirecTV's more than 19.7 million customers the ability to watch live broadcast and stored content from a compatible DirecTV DVR on Samsung's 2012 line of Smart TV's without the need for additional set-top boxes" (see the article published on itvt.com, January 12th).
  • At the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem's (DECE) UltraViolet press event, the company announced plans to offer a "Disc to Digital" feature on its Blu-ray players. The feature was developed by Rovi and Flixster, using services and technologies from RCDb (see the article published on itvt.com, January 12th). "Available later this year, Disc to Digital will allow consumers to add their existing Blu-ray Disc and DVD libraries from participating studios to their UltraViolet digital library--making them viewable on a wide range of devices," Samsung states in its press materials. "Disc to Digital can work with any authorized retail service and will initially be available using a new Flixster application on Samsung's Smart Hub. When consumers insert an eligible physical disc into a 2012 Samsung Blu-ray player and select the Disc to Digital icon, they will launch the Flixster application and can easily add the movie to their UltraViolet locker for a nominal amount. If high-definition versions are available, they will have the option to upgrade their standard-definition movies for an additional fee. Once digital copies have been created and added to the consumer's UltraViolet collection, the content will be available to enjoy through the Flixster Smart Hub application on Samsung's Smart Hub, as well as a broad range of mobile and portable devices such as iPhones, iPads and Android-based devices as well as PC's and Macs. UltraViolet also allows consumers to share their entire UltraViolet digital library with other members on their account, and they can even watch the same title simultaneously from different locations. Flixster will also be available this year on Samsung TV's and Blu-ray players. Through the application, consumers will be able to easily access and stream their UltraViolet movie and TV show collections directly on their TV's."
  • The company demo'd pre-release versions of apps that will bring pay-TV services from Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon FiOS TV to its connected-TV devices (see the article published on itvt.com, January 12th).
  • The company revealed that itaas has won its 2011 "Free the TV Challenge" developer contest (see the article published on itvt.com, January 10th).
  • Movl, the winner of Samsung's inaugural "Free the TV Challenge" and a company with a history of working closely with the CE manufacturer, has developed an app called Movl SwipeIt that allows users to stream content from their iOS or Android smartphone or tablet to their Samsung connected TV--via a swiping motion (hence the name). The Verge's Nilay Patel has more.
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