LG's David Vanderwaal Presents the webOS fridge with Amazon's Mike George at CES 2017

LG at CES 2017

LG has had a few announcements at CES over the years and some of them have included webOS since the company unveiled it’s webOS smart TVs in 2014.

The televisions are now on to version 3 of the OS. Late last year we saw stories that webOS would appear on a video projector and in the last few days a refrigerator.

What did the CES presentation in Las Vegas have to offer? As ever, it was less than hoped (at least for webOS on mobile fans), but within the bounds of it’s presentation, what was shown was very impressive.

Firstly, there was no sign or mention of the projector, so we’ll get back to that another time. The Presentation was introduced as usual by LG CTO, Dr Skott Ahn. Main presentation duties were once again handled by LG’s head of US marketing, David Vanderwaal. Of the products that made it onto the stage, two ran LG’s webOS operating system. Mr Vanderwaal began with the new refrigerator.

In many ways, the Smart Instaview fridge is simply a combination of existing technologies from LG and elsewhere. It has a 29″ portrait format screen on one of the doors. Tapping on the door displays a view of the interior so that no energy is wasted in unnecessary opening and it has automatic power saving features. This view can also be sent to a smart phone so you can double check your list when out shopping.

The fridge runs a version of webOS, with an interface clearly different from that on the TVs. It can play music and videos, track the freshness of products on the shelf, display noticeboard type messages, recipes and order fresh groceries online. LG have worked with Amazon to integrate their Alexa voice recognition system for control and ordering. The whole arrangement can hook up to to an Artificial Intelligence system called Deep ThinQ to anticipate the user’s lifestyle needs. The flag-ship fridge has almost every feature you could think to cram in and is an impressive item for the moneyed consumer.

After a diversion into a pair of Schmoo-style robots, the focus moved to televisions. This year will see an update to LG webOS 3.5 including support for recording and 360 VR videos. Mr Vanderwaal started this section with improvements to their LCD display technology. LG uses nano cell technology to improve colour rendition up to 1 billion colours. Both luminance and viewing angles are improved.

Mr Vanderwaal was joined on stage by representatives from both Technicolor and Dolby Labs. The new TVs will support both company’s systems for colour rendition and high dynamic range pictures among other formats. Some HDR processing can be applied to images with standard dynamic range. To compliment improved colour, brightness and contrast range, LG speaker systems also support Dolby’s Atmos sound system. Dolby’s Giles Baker stated that, “there is no better TV on the market today.” The support from these two big names in cinema technology is certainly impressive.

The presentation finished with the flag-ship TV for 2017: The 77″ LG Signature W. This 4K OLED TV needs no back light so can be only 2.57mm thick. Mr Vanderwaal said this enables the TV to be magnetically mounted directly to the wall and claimed that this made the total thickness less than 4mm, casting such a minimal shadow that the TV appears to be part of the wallpaper – hence the ‘W’ in the name. There was brief mention of a new generation Blu-ray Ultra HD HDR player to compliment this screen, but there were few details.

Here is the video (you may need to forward to the start):

What was interesting was that there was no mention of mobile phones or tablets. It seems clear that this sector has somewhat reached saturation – at least in most developed countries. Though LG has produced consistently high quality devices, they have struggled to differentiate – even with experiments like their modular G5. After Samsung’s PR disaster with the Note 7, there may be an opportunity for LG to grab more market share.

Well known is the rivalry between LG and fellow South Korean electronic manufacturers, Samsung. They often attempt to match and ideally top each other. As Samsung have attempted to avoid Google’s increasing control of Android by using their own Tizen system in other product categories, we have wondered if LG might follow – especially when Tizen on TVs so closely resembles LG webOS. Now as a refrigerator runs webOS, we can again wonder if a webOS IoT eco-system can be built. Whether this creates a path for a commercial webOS phone or even a webOS toaster remains to be seen. Maybe next year?

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