Samsung Launches Apple TV Sneak Attack

Months (if not years) ahead of Apple's first television, Samsung is breaking new ground with a fresh set of smart TVs.

And guess what? These TVs will be voice- and motion-controlled! CNN has the full details, but here's a quick rundown: built with dual-core processors, these new smart TVs aim to include unprecedented app connectivity, an impressive user interface, a built-in camera, and what could be the next evolution in the way we control and interact with our televisions.

It's a brilliant and unexpected move from Samsung, a company that currently leads the TV market but is pushing hard to win the smartphone market. Eyeing the potential of the TV industry – and the potential growth that a new and innovative product can bring – Samsung has taken action in way that few could have anticipated.

“In this era of smart entertainment, consumers are changing the way they want to be entertained and how they choose to access this content,” Hyun-suk Kim, executive VP of the Visual Display Business at Samsung, said in a company release. “Samsung is redefining what a TV can do so people can use more intuitive ways to control their entertainment experiences, maintain closer contact to people that are important to them, and easily manage and share content across multiple screens.”

While I typically view Samsung's electronics as “me-too” products (whether they sell a bundle or not), the quality of its television sets is practically unmatched. In terms of picture quality, Sony (NYSE: SNE [FREE Stock Trend Analysis]) has made better-looking sets. Panasonic (NYSE: PC) has traditionally strived to make the largest sets. But Samsung's variety, competitive pricing, and effective marketing has helped the company maintain its industry lead. In spite of numerous reports claiming that 3D TVs flopped, TechCrunch reported yesterday that Samsung sold 12 million of them worldwide.

Some might view today's announcement as an extension of the company's growing dedication to the TV industry. But I think it's more of a preemptive strike against Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL). For one thing, Apple TV rumors have existed for a year or so, giving Samsung plenty of time to develop a product that mirrors the Apple speculation. Consumers will see this as being the TV they expected from Apple based solely on a series of rumors. That does not mean that they will rush out and buy a Samsung television set. But the perception alone could give Samsung an edge if Apple releases a product that falls in line with its current expectations. Samsung could then turn around and say that it was the innovator in this field. Unless Apple's TV ends up being a drastically different product, the innovation claim will be hard to argue against.

Historically, Samsung has not had this advantage. It did not take smartphone development seriously until after the iPhone blew up – no, created – the market and revealed its true potential. Now Samsung is vying for first place. In some nations, it is already winning.

Samsung entered the smart TV market a few years ago. But by jumping in headfirst right now with some of the most Apple-sounding features available, Samsung has an opportunity to increase its market share while staving off any possible threat.

Smart TV or Stupid TV?

My gut reaction to today's announcement is very positive. Whether Samsung copied the Apple rumors or had this set in development all along does not really matter. All that consumers will care about is how potentially cool these TVs will be, and how they could revolutionize the future of television.

But before you join in on my excitement, let's take a moment to reflect on today's news and ask ourselves: is this really a great idea?

From the moment Siri was unveiled, consumers just assumed it would be included in Apple's TV. “It would be amazing!” one friend told me. “I'd buy that!” said another. Analysts have written about it as well, and most think that it is a really good concept.

There was, however, one analyst that didn't seem to keen on the idea. When speaking about the potential for a voice-activated Apple TV, Trip Chowdhry, the Managing Director of Equity Research at Global Equities Research, told Benzinga exactly what he thought about a voice-activated television.

“Microsoft would think that way, but Apple is not that big of an idiot,” Chowdhry said with a laugh. He then explained that voice-activated technology only works in a quiet environment. How could the TV differentiate between your voice and the sound coming from its speakers? How could it differentiate between the many voices and noises of a bar or any other crowded environment? Those are questions that the rumors have yet to address. Instead, the rumor mill continues to tell us, “Siri will be featured in Apple's first TV!”

To be fair, these are questions Samsung has not addressed either. But with its new TVs on display at the International Consumer Electronics Show this week, show attendees may soon find out if Samsung has solved this (potential) problem.

And if it has, then what? Will Apple still bring Siri to its first television set? Or is something more innovative on the horizon?


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