Four key themes in TV are emerging from CES this year:
1. The year of 4K – Clearly the most discussed and promoted technology theme at the show this year is 4K. All major TV manufacturers are featuring 4K TVs, either actually planned products or technology demonstrations.
While most were based on LCD, Panasonic and Sony showed OLED 4K panels, which was a bit of a surprise. Many expected Samsung and/or LG to feature 4K OLED as a technology demonstration. Even Chinese TV brands were showing 4K, all the way up to 110”. Many of the booth demonstrations of video-related products also actively talked about 4K capabilities to match the 4K displays.
Figure 1 – Hisense 110″ 4K LCD TV
2. OLED was quietly promoted – Having announced shipments of OLED TVs this month, LG was proudly featuring their WOLED TV technology in a prominent position at the front of their booth. LG announced availability of their 55” OLED TV in the US starting March 2013 for $12,000. Samsung was expected to try and match LG’s OLED announcement, but chose not to. Both in their press conference and in their booth, Samsung quietly talked about OLED but did not make any bold pronouncements. 4K was highlighted more by Samsung than OLED, perhaps indicating a concession to LG in the market introduction race and choosing to focus on immediately available products. Panasonic and Sony both surprised many by showcasing 56” 4K OLED displays, though clearly these were only demonstrations.
Figure 2 – Samsung Curved OLED TV
3. Smart TVs are maturing – All TV makers featured smart TVs with improved capability and refined design. The focus in 2012 was on simplifying the user experience and making user input more natural. Both Samsung and LG highlighted natural language voice commands and streamlined UI. Google TV has also re-emerged as a prominent partner with several manufacturers announcing new products based on the 3.0 platform. Explorations of the business model potential were also shown by several makers who demonstrated t-commerce options.
Figure 3 – Panasonic T-Commerce Shopping Application
4. The Chinese are coming – Hisense moved into the booth location formerly occupied by Microsoft, representing a significant upgrade from CES 2012 and located directly across from Intel. Traffic was heavy as a result and Hisense showcased many technologies found at market leaders, including transparent LCD, 4K, and voice and gesture recognition. TCL also had a greatly expanded booth presence located directly next to Panasonic. Chinese brands are very serious about expanding share in the US and competing aggressively with traditional U.S. TV brands, with both advanced technology as well as stepped up marketing and promotion.
Figure 4 – TCL CES Booth