LG Adds Smarts to TV Sets

There are millions of HD TVs in homes that are not smart TVs but whose owners want Netflix or other OTT services after seeing them at a friend’s. So far Apple, Roku, Boxee and Logitech with its Google TV have been the answer. There are also Blu-ray players.

LG has entered the fray and is now shipping in the States its ST600 smart TV adapter, which upgrades any HD TV that has an HDMI connector to a smart TV. It’s $129 at retailers like Wal-Mart, Amazon and NewEgg.

$129 LG Smart TV Upgrader
The big news is that it has a Web browser that lets users see news, reviews and other content. It’s not clear whether it’s a full Internet browser that lets users view TV shows on Hulu and the network broadcasters’ Web sites. They ganged up to prevent Google TV users from watching their shows.

LG’s Netcast service offers more OTT services than the $99 Apple TV, and includes:

Netflix
Hulu Plus
Vudu
Amazon VOD
Pandora
NHL GameCenter
YouTube
NBA Game Live
CinemaNow
MLB.TV

Lots of OTT Video Services on the ST600
The box comes with connections for Wi-Fi 802.11b, g and n; HDMI; USB for externally stored content and keyboards; and perhaps most importantly for audiophiles, optical.

The box also comes with a touchscreen remote. There’s a free iPhone/Android app that makes them a remote.

It’s DLNA-compliant, allowing users to stream videos, music and photos from their PCs. LG’s Smart Share feature includes Media Link for information such as cover art and liner notes for content being streamed.

There’s also a range of LG Apps that includes everything from games to news and education.

Apps for the ST600
“LG Smart TV is an exciting innovation, and our LG SmartTV Upgrader provides an affordable option for consumers to adopt this new technology,” said Jay Vandenbree, senior VP at LG Electronics USA. “Now any TV can be ‘Something Better’ with virtually unlimited content options.”

The ST600 was first announced at CES in January.

LG has a couple of strikes against it with the smart TV adapter:

– It has not done a good job of adding OTT video apps to its smart TVs. It has not added a single app in over a year. Unofficial reports are that there may be some in June.

– Smart TV adapters have not sold well: Logitech reported fewer sales than it expected in the first quarter, probably because of the horrible job that Google did with the user interface, from its setup to its browsing capabilities. But, it might also show a lack of consumer interest and their reluctance to add another box to the STB stack and more wires. Apple has not said how many it has sold, meaning possibly less than expected.

LG said it will add the Plex media server app for PCs or Macs with an upgrade, calling it MediaLink. Users will be able to stream digital content from a home’s media server to the ST600, PC, smartphone or tablet. The firmware upgrade is expected in the third quarter.

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