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New Samsung and LG Designs Push LCD Market Forward

May 5, 2008 12:00 PM

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Based on Samsung and LG TV introduction over the past two weeks, the future of HDTV will be about a lot more than just pixels, frame rates, and response time. With 1080p resolution and 120Hz refresh rates at the top of the performance charts, manufacturers are banking on consumers demanding a lot more than stellar images from their premium-tier TVs.

LG said last week that it had put $100 million down on a global marketing campaign throughout 27 countries to promote its new Scarlet series of designer LCD TVs. The print and TV campaign focuses on a TV hero named Scarlet in a series of suspenseful trailers. The first round of ads that premiered mid-April left viewers believing Scarlet was a new TV show. The second ad, released last week, indicated Scarlet is instead a new series of LG TVs.

LG’s hefty investment in the Scarlet series signals how important design is to the growth of the profit-strapped LCD market. LG Vice President of Marketing Allan Jason didn’t specify the price premium Scarlet models carry over other LG models, but said the designer TVs, with “invisible speakers” tuned by high-end audio designer Mark Levinson, were the flagship of the 2008 line. The Scarlet line also boasts 1080p resolution, 120 Hz smooth motion technology, and automatic brightness control.

The Scarlet line includes the 37-inch 37LG60 ($1,699), 42-inch 42LG60 ($2,799), 47-inch 47LG60 ($3,499) and 52-inch 52LG60 ($3,799). A 32in. version is slated for July delivery and the 1.8in.-thick 42in. and 47in. models will be released in the third quarter.

Samsung, too, pushed design and upscale features at its recent line show in New York. “Eight years ago, we were entering the wonderful world of HD and it was like eye candy,” says Jonas Tanenbaum, vice president of flatpanel marketing. “Now the quality is so good we take it for granted, so at Samsung we’re providing more technical enhancements such as 1080p and 120 Hz.” Tanenbaum says the upscale features add about $200 to $300 to the retail price.

The company also demonstrated its InfoLink RSS service which is another way Samsung hopes to differentiate its flatpanel TVs from price-oriented models. InfoLink TVs show icons for news, weather, sports and stocks in the upper left corner of the screen while consumers watch TV. Users highlight a category and get news headlines, stock quotes or weather forecasts at the touch of a button. When they select a news headline they can read the text of a semi-transparent article on screen while still viewing the TV program in the background.

Content is provided by USA Today and is customizable according to zip code for local weather and sports scores. Users track stocks from a list of NYSE and NASDAQ symbols, which they can store for easy recall.

InfoLink is available on Series 6 650 and Series 7 750 LCD TVs, and Internet connections can be wired or wireless. A $35 Samsung USB dongle called LinkStick will deliver wireless networking capability when it arrives in stores this month.

Samsung also showed 3D demos on its new DLP and plasma TVs. The company plans to roll out 3D capability to LCD TVs next year as well. Samsung’s goal is to have 3D capability built into TVs next year. Currently, TVs have to be connected to a PC to be able to play back 3D content.

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