At last night's launch of its 2012 TV range, Samsung was at pains to promote its Smart TV offerings, which this year will include fitness apps, Foxtel and both talk and physical navigation options. The bigger breaking news from last night's launch was undoubtedly that Samsung will be offering Foxtel as an option through selected TV models later this year, as well as eight free Olympics channels for anyone who buys a series 7 or series 8 TV. But that wasn't the entire story for Samsung's TV range, which (like last year) is all about pushing the Smart TV message, albeit a message that they were also pushing at this year's CES.
Foxtel's a nice little coup for Samsung to engineer; while I can't imagine it'll entice somebody already on a Foxtel contract, it's definitely a nice bit of oneupmanship. Some of Samsung's offerings weren't so fresh, however, and represented more of a catch-up, with services such as Plus7 and Wiggle Time TV (already available on competing models) being pitched as part of the buying pitch.
Samsung's still heavily investing in Smart TV applications as well; I had a brief demonstration of an inbuilt VOD-based home fitness program that offers a variety of exercise routines that use the inbuilt camera on the TV to offer you a "mirror" mode that allows you to see yourself next to the video instructor. It's not quite Kinect, but I could see some utility in it for some. Likewise, the Kids hub offers a variety of (shudder) "edutainment" programs and games for the family rug rat.
Samsung also announced a measure of future prooofing with the new TV range, which comes with an expansion slot that'll allow this year's TVs to be upgraded for a minimum of five years to match features in future sets. That's not a free offering -- it'll cost $149 for each year's expansion board -- and it wasn't entirely clear at the launch what would happen if you skipped a given year's upgrade board.
From a control perspective, the humble remote control is apparently passé; select models in the new line feature touch, voice and gesture controls, with inbuilt cameras able to perform face recognition as well. Launches are always a terrible place to properly assess that kind of technology -- it's noisy, badly lit and of course the vendor is largely in control of the choices open to you -- but I'm still not totally sold on the technology, if only because I rather like physical buttons. Perhaps I'm a dinosaur.
The Australian TV market's become ever more price centric, and Samsung's clearly going for a "premium" style strategy here; at the launch Phil Newton, head of audio visual Samsung Australia stated that
"For the last 12 months it's all been about low quality, low cost sets; it gives the market a bad name."
Hmm. I wonder who he could be referring to there? Samsung's pitch at that entry level market comes from the EH series LED TVs, which start at $479 for a 26 inch model. That gives Samsung an immense price range, as the top-end series 8 ES8000 60 inch model will set you back $5,399.