I was lucky enough to be invited to sit in on a roundtable meeting with some of Samsung’s top brass along with twenty or so other press members. A lot of questions got asked and we got some great answers.
Kevin Lee – VP, Smart TV Partnerships
Bong-Ku Kang – SVP, Product Marketing Group
Hyo-Gun Lee – VP Software Group R&D Team
John Revie – SVP Home Entertainment
Traffic was bad and monorail lines were long so the panel got started a bit later than planned. There were a few quick introductions and then we went straight into the Q&As. Unless there are quotes around a line, it’s not a direct quote but a shorter paraphrased response. Some of these answers went on for a while.
Q: Samsung has created a new panel tech called PLS. Will that be available in consumer level televisions any time soon?
Kevin Lee: There are currently no plans to put PLS tech into consumer TVs. PLS is made for very specific product categories like medical equipment.
Q: Why not?
Kevin Lee: The requirements for medical equipment are very specific and medical companies aren’t as held back by price as normal consumers. While PLS provides wider viewing angles and a better picture, it also costs dramatically more.
Q: Other companies are going with glasses-free and passive 3D Displays but you’re sticking with active. Why is that?
Kevin Lee: Samsung’s primary concern for televisions is image quality, which is something that passive and glasses-free sets can’t provide. Glasses-free sets also offer very limited viewing angles, which works for smaller sets but not large scale ones.
Q: What is your Google TV strategy? What do consumers actually want from their connected TV?
John Revie: 60% of 2011 TVs are 3D, 70% are connected and include web-browsing. People want a variety of things, but we’ve set aside a few key features for consumers so prevent the choice from becoming overwhelming. Google set-top boxes and Blu-ray players are coming, but there are no current plans for a television with Google TV included.
Q: You’ve been talking a lot about US releases, but do you have anything exciting planned for Europe or Australia?
Kevin Lee: Apps are currently available globally, but Samsung is currently working on making more local content in other countries. The BBC iPlayer is a great example, but we’re willing to take on more partners in other countries. “We welcome any partner who can provide attractive content.”
Q: What challenges have you run into in finding content partners for your connected TVs. What concerns do they express.
Kevin Lee: Finding a winning strategy is the key. Samsung has an open platform and provides great opportunities. We’re not running into any concerns. Internet TVs aren’t a big issue with our content providers.
Q: With your LCDs as good as they are, how long until Samsung stops making Plasmas?
Kevin Lee: Production costs for plasmas keep getting cheaper, letting us deliver more screen at a lower price. Because of this, we won’t be stopping plasma production any time soon. We see it going on for another ten years.
Q: What can you tell us about Carbon Nano Tube (CNT) backlighting technology?
Bong-Ku Kang: CNT technology is currently under development, but it’s not the only tech we’re working on. With CNT there are technology limitations and cost limitations, so we have no idea if or when it will make it out. We’ve got a lot under development, so it’s impossible to tell what will come first.
Q: The new touchscreen remote for your LCD sets can play some content from the TV but not all. Why isn’t all video available?
Hyo-Gun Lee: We’re working with content providers to solve the issue, which is one of digital rights management (DRM).
Q: Are there any plans to enable the use of phones as controllers?
Hyo-Gun Lee: We see the smart controller, smart tablets and smart phones as similar devices. We will implement the same functionality in those devices.
Q: What’s your view on the passive 3D technology being implemented by companies like LG and Vizio?
Bong-Ku Kang: It can’t be sustained long term. There are many limitations including cross-talk and viewing angle that they will not be able to overcome. That’s why we’re going to be sticking with active shutter glasses. It provides a Full HD picture. “We don’t think that (passive tech) can survive forever.”
Kevin Lee: The most important thing for the customer is image quality. In the case of passive technology there is a limitation in image quality. Passive style reduces brightness more than active does and provides better picture quality. That’s why most manufacturers are sticking with active.
Q: Can our network handle a large adoption of Smart TVs? If it really takes off will we be bogged down?
Hyo-Gun Lee: Smart TV will consume more bandwidth, but so will smartphones, tablets and everything else that uses the internet. The need for a better network will either result in an upgrade or help push new technology like adaptive streaming.
Q: Won’t 4K panels be sufficient for full HD with passive technology 3D glasses?
Kevin Lee: Sure, but customers will have to pay significantly more money for a 4K panel. That’s a scenario that doesn’t seem entirely likely.
Q: It’s impossible to buy a high-end TV that isn’t 3D, so how many of those high-end televisions are actually being purchased for the 3D. Do you have any studies on the subject?
John Revie: We don’t have any specific data on that. Most people buy a TV every 5-7 years, so we believe that 3D was a factor for purchases. Maybe they’re not watching 3D yet, but they’re future-proofing themselves.
Q: Can you give us an update on Samsung’s OLED screens?
Bong-Ku Kang: OLED is currently only being mass-produced for very small screens like shoes on cell phones. Larger sizes are in the works, and while Samsung’s main focus is picture quality, price comes into account. OLED production is extremely expensive, making it impractical to produce in large sizes.