LG challenges Google TV, Boxee with Smart TV

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While Google TV and Boxee have both stumbled in their initial set-top boxes, LG will pounce upon their weakness with its own flavor of connected television, dubbed Smart TV. LG announced the new technology, which will find its way into many of the company’s latest televisions and a standalone set-top box, at CES on Wednesday.

Like its prime competitors, LG Smart TV will offer access to a broad array of both streaming and networked content directly from your television. Launch partners will include Google Maps, YouTube, Twitter, Picasa, AP, Netflix, CinemaNow, and Amazon Video on Demand, Hulu Plus and more, plus a specialized app store that will allow third-party content developers to add their own content and functionality.

The core of the Smart TV experience lies in LG’s Magic Motion remote, a six-button controller that resembles Nintendo’s Wii remote. Press a button and a mouse cursor appears on the TV screen, allowing you to flip through menus and even surf the Web through a built-in browser, without the restrictions of a standard four-way directional pad, or a trackpad as on Logitech’s Google-TV-powered Revue.

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LG built the interface from different panels, including a linear dashboard along the bottom, a live TV view in the upper left, a content full of “premium” content full of links to streaming content like Netflix and YouTube, and a palette of apps on the right. The company didn’t pin a hard number on the availability of apps at launch, but LG CTO Skott Ahn claims it will off “lots of applications available at launch, and more being added daily from developers across the world.”

A “smart share” media link interface will also pipe in movies, music and photos via DLNA, the spin being a new graphic-based interface for sifting through content that may rival what Google, Apple or even Boxee offer right now. In a demo, movie covers appeared along the bottom of the screen, drifted smoothly across as it scrolled with short summaries poppin up, and backgrounds changed to match each movie’s theme. LG claims Smart TV will automatically fetch metadata for libraries, which would – hypothetically – provide this souped-up interface without user intervention.

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LG will also mimic Google TV’s universal search feature (which we found to be less than universal) with its own search that works across both online content providers and DLNA content. A demo showed it turning up local movies along with matches from Hulu Plus, Netflix, Picasa, and YouTube.

LG will offer Smart TV in many of its upcoming 2011 model TVs, along with a so-called Upgrader box, which will connect via HDMi and offer the same basic functionality. Prices and an official launch date have not yet been announced.

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