Regardless, smart TVs aren't going away anytime soon. That's because, "If you are not a smart TV," says Doherty, "you are presumed to be a dumb TV."
Among the products evolving is LG's Magic Remote, which gained voice recognition last year and will get improved voice functions. Viewers can ask the TV to look for programs featuring an actor or director and also tell the remote, "Switch to ESPN" or "Recommend something."
For example, it will show you Tom Cruise movies not only on your regular TV channels but from Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and other Internet sources.
The new remotes will also be universal remotes that control your provider's set-top box, as well as your Blu-ray Disc player or DVD player. "The people who are really going to be able to stand out in this area are those (who) make it the most easy and intuitive for the user," says Tim Alessi, director of new product development for LG Electronics. "We don't want people to feel like their TV has gotten too smart for them."
Samsung boasts a more intuitive interface on its smart TVs that launches when you turn on the set. The new smart hub, based on user behavior studies from Samsung's smartphone division, will offer recommendations of current and upcoming programming, based on viewing habits -- and like LG's models, across standard pay TV programming, video-on-demand and services such as Netflix. "Our focus is on bringing that human experience back to watching TV," says Joe Stinziano, senior vice president for home entertainment at Samsung Electronics America.
Samsung, Toshiba, Westinghouse and Vizio will also join the TV makers offering new Ultra HD sets, which deliver four times the resolution of standard HDTVs. At 85 inches, Samsung's display (no price or release date yet) is slightly larger than 84-inch models that arrived in select stores last fall from LG and Sony, with prices starting at about $20,000 and $25,000, respectively.
Westinghouse plans to unveil a 110-inch display, while Vizio's first Ultra HD set will be a 70-inch display, due in stores during the third quarter. Consumer interest in larger displays is driving TV makers' move to Ultra HD, says John Schindler, Vizio's vice president of products for home theater. "To get the extra clarity that you would in a midsize TV, Ultra HD is going to be important." Also on display from Vizio is one of the holy grails of TV technology: a 55-inch glasses-free 3-D TV (no price or ship date).
As with the launch of the initial HDTVs, there's not a lot of true Ultra HD content available yet. However, Sony will have its delivery system with the higher-definition "4K Ultra HD" movies on display at CES and other new entrants are expected.
The range in TV sizes will continue to expand, says Digital World Research analyst P.J. McNealy. He expects to see a 145-inch Ultra HD display from Panasonic, as well as small handheld high-def TVs and tablets from several makers. These trends will make "for a more interesting show than in past years, when the buzz was centered around 3-D TV," he says.
TV makers will continue to exploit viewers' use of smartphones and tablets while they watch TV. TV makers such as Panasonic, LG and Samsung let you use your smartphone to control their TVs, but you can expect better-integrated use of second-screen applications to be announced, Doherty says. TV makers "know you've got them (and) want to make you happy with them," he says.
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