LG Opens up Its Smart TVs’ WebOS to Developers

– Provides Aids & Assistance to 3rd Party Developers

Makers of smart TVs have three choices when it comes to “smartening” their TVs:

– Use an open sources operating system such as Android and develop al their own apps. The disadvantage is that it takes a lot of management time, money and know-how to keep all the apps up-to-date and add new apps.

– Outsource it as several of the Chinese set makers are doing by embedding Roku’s technology in their TV sets or recommending that their customers buy a Roku NTB.

– Develop (or buy) their own operating system, add the most popular apps such as Netflix, Hulu and YouTube and then opening the operating system to third party apps developers with what’s called a software development kit (SDK).

LG Electronics acquired WebOS from HP and ported it to its new line of TV sets. It has now made available an SDK for it that independent developers can use to develop apps. LG is also pro-active in getting as many quality apps as it can. It promises to help developers access “all the information they need to create high quality WebOS TV apps.” It has made available an LG Smart+ TV Emulator that developers can use to set up a virtual WebOS TV experience on a PC. LG says the SDK has a developer-friendly user interface and works with standard Web technologies such as the now almost mandatory HTML5, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and JavaScript.

LG has gone the extra steps to encourage third-party developers by providing documentation, development tips, sample apps, design guide, FAQs and a developer forum. It said, “The Application Programming Interface (API) guide will help developers get started almost immediately without a long orientation process and clear step-by-step explanations are provided for beginners to WebOS.”

It’s a major move for LG to differentiate itself from other set makers. During its launch of Android TV this week, Google said Android TV will be used in all 2015 TV sets from Sony, Sharp and TV Vision (Philips). That’s not to say LG won’t have an Android TV-based set, but LG is betting on WebOS.

LG’s CTO Dr Scott Ahn said, “One key reason behind selecting WebOS as our next smart TV operating system was because of its history and origins as a developer-friendly platform. We feel it’s very important for platform owners such as LG to assist developers in creating apps that are highly maximized for our products. In an industry where there is no single dominant standard, expanding the WebOS TV ecosystem is a top priority for LG.”

On June 2, 2014, LG said it had sold more than one million units of its WebOS-enabled smart TVs since they launched in March 2014. It said, “Reaching the one million mark in just three months is a significant achievement in the TV industry.” It’s selling them in 150 countries.

It also said it would sell 10 million units by the first half of 2015.

LG’s Major Moves
LG has recently made two major moves, one being the WebOS venture with third-party developers and the other being the first top TV set makers with a UHD set (49-inches) for under the $1,500 suggested retail price.

LG is generally acknowledged as having some of the best displays, which it gets from LG Display, of which LG Electronics is the largest shareholder with control of 37.9% of LG Display’s shares. LG Display’s shares are traded on the Korean stock exchange and the New York Stock Exchange. LG Electronics is LG Display’s biggest customer but LG Display also sells to Philips, HP, Dell, Toshiba, Apple, AmTRAN, Skyworth, Acer and Lenovo.

LG Electonics’ recent moves “outside the box that is the display” will help LG in its fight for sales against the King Kong of CE that’s Samsung plus Sony and the remaining and somewhat desperate Japanese set makers plus the up and coming Chinese CE companies TCL, Haier and Hisense. Also, there are the American-owned but Chinese-made sets from Vizio, which generally run second or third in sales of TVs in the States and offer an increasingly higher-quality and diverse line of low-cost TVs that are sold at big box retailers like Walmart, which gets millions of consumers in its stores. Vizio has promised a 50-inch UHD set for under $1,000 sometime this year. That’ll set off a price war for the mass market because Samsung, Sony and LG don’t want to be caught looking as if they were in 2006 when Vizio and Walmart partnered to be the first to offer a large-screen (42-inch) 1080p set for under $1,000. Making the point that OTT videos would have to be top quality, we reported on July 27, 2007:

“Prices for HDTVs have dropped to where most can afford one. Wal-Mart’s sister company Sam’s Club sells a 42-inch Vizio Widescreen LCD HDTV for $887.78. It’s $946 at Wal-Mart. The model VX42LHDTV has built-in dual tuners and 1366 x 768 resolution. A 50-inch Vizio Plasma HDTV model VP50HDTV goes for $1,396.46 at Sam’s Club. By the way, the top-of-the-line Sony V-series Bravia 46-inch widescreen LCD goes for $2,397.48 at Sam’s Club. It’s the model KDL46V25L1 and has 1080P resolution and two HDMI connectors. All of this goes to make the point that viewers of Internet TV aren’t going to be satisfied with less-than-excellent picture quality.”

Although there are other factors that contributed to Sony’s downward trend in TV sets…

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