Samsung shows off IoT, entertainment, and gaming devices while laying low on phones at CES
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On stage at CES 2017. Screenshot via Samsung Newsroom

Answers about last year’s trials, including the Galaxy Note 7 explosive battery, will have to wait a bit longer

“This year was a challenging year for Samsung,” Tim Baxter, COO and President of Samsung Electronics America said at the company’s CES 2017 presentation today. “So this year, yes, we are reflecting.”

Samsung’s focus, though, was instead on upgrades and new consumer products, most of them for the home, with greater emphasis on IoT: Samsung also announced the opening of a $150 million investment into a “NEXT Fund” to sponsor device-to-device R&D, replacing the Global Innovation Center.

Samsung did not discuss any of the recall issues much that dogged it last year: “We have made significant strides since CES last year,” Baxter said, across a number of consumer product sectors, especially TVs and appliances. (And, despite the Note 7, smartphones.) These devices were the ones that dominated the discussion today, with a promise to settle the discussion about last year’s problems soon.

Samsung, then, mainly used the opportunity to promise it would continue upgrading existing systems, rather than come forward with any big changes or, of course, talk about the still highly secretive Galaxy S8 smartphone. The highlight was, then, the new QLED display system for TVs, which does have the potential to transform the industry, and further innovation on IoT that’s probably going to become standard in the next couple of years.

IoT

IoT “guides our overall strategy,” Baxter said, and promised that the company was fully committed to building a new ecosystem for these devices, in every home appliance category, from smart TVs and smartwatches to the kitchen and laundry rooms.

“We’re making big, bold bets in IoT, billions in next generation technology,” Baxter said, singling out Viv Labs, Joyent, and HARMAN, the latter to develop more automotive applications. Unfortunately, though, Samsung didn’t really discuss any new car tech.

Family Hub 2.0 with refrigerator. Screenshot via Samsung Newsroom

“Now for us, IoT is not a buzzword.” Family Hub 2.0 on a refrigerator. Screenshot via Samsung Newsroom

John Herrington, Senior Vice President of Samsung Electronics America, discussed the new family hub upgrades for these appliances, including camera technology to show on your phone what’s inside your fridge while shopping and voice recognition. As Chris Velazco of Engadget notes, “Voice commands in a fridge were inevitable, and speaks to how seriously Samsung is taking virtual assistants.”

(Another service on display at CES, FridgeCam from Smarter, provides similar services, helping you track expiration dates and store recipes.)

Home entertainment

Joe Stinziano, Executive Vice President of Samsung Electronics America, spoke on the new smart TV offerings, emphasizing quantum dot technology – the color green was the big sell – for improved color and lighting, and a move away from organic-based OLED technology, to QLED. (Baxter himself grandly described these TVs as works of art, both on and off.)

Green is good. Screenshot via Samsung Newsroom

Green is good. Screenshot via Samsung Newsroom

Samsung, which sells 46.4% of all Ultra HD TVs sold in the US, hopes that this, as well as new design features, will reduce the number of cables needed.

Another company rep, Won-Jin Lee, also spoke on Samsung’s entertainment options, with a new smartphone app called Smart View launching as a virtual remote, on both iOS and Android and a promise that more 4K content would be made available in 2017 in the US as “TV Plus.”

QLED. Screenshot via Samsung Newsroom

QLED. Screenshot via Samsung Newsroom

Some other new devices, like a UHD Blu-ray player and wireless speaker system, will also be available “early this year.” The QLEDs, though, will start shipping in February.

Gaming & VR

Alanna Cotton, Vice President of Samsung Electronics America, announced a Chromebook Plus and a Chromebook Pro in collaboration with Google, as well as a 15-inch Notebook 9. As The Verge notes, these heavily advertise their stylus support. And there was a special emphasis on gaming on a new notebook design, the Odyssey. (The Verge *also* notes that the Odyssey does not yet stand out from more established competitors, so has a ways to go to eat into their market shares.)

Chromebook and Notebook. Screenshot via Samsung Newsroom

Chromebook (L) and Notebook (R). Screenshot via Samsung Newsroom

Baxter highlighted the fact that the company sold over 5 million Oculus-powered VR devices, accounting for 10 million hours of video consumption. Samsung expects to see these figure increase even further, and last year joined the Global Virtual Reality Association as a founding member.

Screenshot via Samsung Newsroom

Screenshot via Samsung Newsroom

Again, Samsung unfortunately did not talk much about its Gear VR despite doing so at the start, though it has two new sets in the works, according to TheStreet, more support for the Galaxy S7, and updates to the WebVR API that pairs the Gear with YouTube.

Safety

Samsung was mum about the Note 7, and other recalls, except for Baxter to say the company would soon share its root cause report on the now-dead smartphone soon, and confirmed that third parties were helping investigate the causes, a major concession for a company so determined to keep everything under one roof, including quality control, as Samsung is.

(Samsung also had to recall washing machines, though it did not address that in the same space as it promoted its new ones.)

Phone Arena speculates that in light of the company still using its in-house battery manufacturer, SDI, for the Galaxy S8, whatever issue there might have been with its battery builds has been resolved.

The report will come out sometime this month.

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