Jan. 5, 2011 at 1:23 PM ET
At CES in Las Vegas this week, LG showed off its Smart TV strategy: TVs and Blu-ray players — and even a small wireless "upgrader" box — all running apps you can download that provide video on demand, social networking, photo management and other webby perks.
LG isn't the only one — this is a trend. At this year's show, smart TV fever is second only to tablet fever. Some say it's a symptom of 3-D TV's failure to catch on, I say it's a natural progression: Electronics makers know we want Netflix, Hulu Plus, Twitter and Facebook, even games and Web browsers (though hopefully not all at the same time). They know someone will deliver that to the TV, so why not them?
LG's offering is nice, particularly because LG, along with Samsung, has been at the forefront of using third-party software on their devices already. LG already provided Vudu, CinemaNow, Netflix and other app-like programs in its TVs and Blu-ray players, but it was lacking a smooth visual interface and better customization. As you can see in the screen shot below, it's gone to a layout that looks a lot like Apple's iBooks, with "shelves" where the apps sit. You shop for the apps, and take the ones you want for your device.
And for people who don't want to invest in a new TV (and seriously, with all the great TVs that have been sold in the past five years, there's really no reason to), they created the Smart TV Upgrader, aka ST600, which will work with any TV that takes HDMI input. It doesn't have to be LG. What I like best about the Wi-Fi-equipped box is that, though simple, it will have nerd features, like being able to pull video from hard drives on your network via the DLNA protocol. This one-ups the $99 Roku XDS box, the current low-budget nerd favorite.
Speaking of price, LG hasn't announced one. But since the ST600's functionality competes with Blu-ray players that sell for under $200, my guess is that it's going to be cheap.
We'll do a deeper dive on this and other app-based TVs soon, but it's a big trend, and let's be honest, one that makes way more sense than that 3-D business, so I wanted to bring it up now.
Wilson is in Las Vegas all week covering the Consumer Electronics Show, culminating in a live one-hour streaming video show on Friday, co-hosted by XM Radio personality and tech commentator Mario Armstrong. For updates on all the tech news that's actually relevant to you, be sure to check technolog.msnbc.com. And don't forget to follow Wilson on Twitter, and shoot him any questions you might have about the massive barge of tech news currently headed our way.