LG Unveils Web-Enabled TVs, Apps to Challenge Apple, Roku, Sony

LG Electronics Inc. is introducing a line of 10 television sets, Blu-ray video players and a set-top box that will compete with Apple TV, Roku and Boxee in offering movies, TV shows and other content off the Web.

Called LG SmartTV, the products provide access to a number of sources for streaming movies and video, including Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.’s on-demand service. SmartTV products will include a Web browser and connect to LG’s new applications store, which will launch with more than 100 free and paid apps, said Tim Alessi, director of product development.

The products will be unveiled this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. By April, the Seoul, South Korea-based company will begin selling a stand-alone set-top box called LG SmartTV Upgrader that will offer the same Web services and be compatible with any TV set with an HDMI connector cable. A retail price for the box hasn’t been set, Alessi said.

Google Inc. and Apple Inc. are vying to deliver popular TV shows and movies through consumer electronic gear, while Sony Corp. already offers a line of Web-enabled TV sets that connect to Netflix and other online programming sources.

At the same time, LG, Samsung and other set makers are becoming increasingly reluctant to cede control of the customer experience to partners, said Richard Shim, senior analyst at research firm DisplaySearch in Santa Clara, California.

Iomega’s New Box

Dozens of manufacturers are creating products that let consumers combine content off the Web with traditional television programming. Hard-drive maker Iomega Corp., a unit of EMC Corp., yesterday announced Iomega TV with Boxee web TV software for $229.99.

Separately at the Las Vegas show, LG is introducing new 3-D televisions that use technology similar to that found in movie theaters.

Vizio Inc., Toshiba Corp. and LG are switching to passive 3-D technology that works with polarized lenses, which are lighter and cheaper than the active-shutter glasses offered in first-generation sets sold last year.

“The real pain points for consumers were the glasses, the cost of the glass, the comfort and the comfortable viewing experience,” Alessi said. “Hopefully, we’ve removed the barriers that have caused people to hesitate.”

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