updated 07:05 am EST, Sat January 11, 2014
Finding out just how well webOS works on the big screen
When we first took a look at LG's new webOS-powered smart television interface, we promised to circle back and spend more time with the rejuvenated and repurposed platform. Friday being the last day of the annual Consumer Electronics Show - as well as the least crowded day - we thought that the perfect time to get a closer look at the erstwhile Palm platform turned LG engine. What we found upon stopping by LG's booth was actually even more impressive than we'd initially expected.
As we noted before, LG's been big on pressing the notion that "It's All Possible" with the South Korean tech giant's wares. Just how far "All Possible" stretches is still up for debate, but from what we've been told, it should at least cover the attachment of assorted TV peripherals and devices. The LG attendant told us that the webOS platform will immediately recognize and know how to communicate with any number of devices that are plugged in.
"Will that include game consoles?" we asked.
"Including game consoles," he replied.
"Smartphones? Tablets? Computers?"
All answered in the affirmative. Of course, we have to take his word for it, but we'll be impressed if it turns out that webOS interacts with other tech as well as LG promises.
When your assorted other tech is plugged into a webOS television, the system will assign each piece its own card. Those cards are persistent, and they allow for quick switching between content sources, a charming addition that we're thinking will work really well in the wild, so long as real life goes a bit more smoothly than, say, a CES show booth. The card most recently used is always at the ready for switching back and forth between inputs. We'd been interested to see exactly how LG would realize webOS's card interface on a television, and we were even more impressed in our second go-round than we were with the first.
As we noted before, LG has already built in apps for Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, and YouTube, as well as Facebook and Amazon. These, as with channels and inputs, sit on their own cards, allowing for easy navigation between functions. The manufacturer, according to our attendant, is also looking to bring in even more app capabilities. We asked if LG's reliance on webOS meant the company would have to sweeten the deal to get developer support for its devices:
"Quite the opposite," our attendant answered.
"We've actually had tons of developers coming up to us, asking how they can get on board."
Of course, just like a device's actual operation, that statement should be taken with an at-CES-sized dose of skepticism. We've got to say we're a bit heartened, though, that webOS appears to still have some admirers in the developer community. We weren't, though, able to get any additional info out of our attendant as to whether LG was doing anything other than being coy with regard to the possibility of the platform appearing on any other devices.
Seeing the Magic Remote in action was also impressive, though it gave us a bit more pause than it did at first glance. In our first Eyes-On, we assumed the Magic Remote worked in a manner similar to, say, a laser pointer, or perhaps Nintendo's Wii Remote: interfacing with the screen with an infrared or other signal in order to position the pointer. The attendant told us, though, that it operates on Bluetooth, with an accelerometer determining the position of the cursor on the screen. This could be better than the Wii Remote, as the jumpiness in that peripheral was at times annoying, but it may lessen the precision of the interface, depending on how well LG has tweaked the technology. In practice on the show floor, though, it looked suitable enough, so we're thinking it should shake out pretty much fine.
Like many tech nerds, we were mostly just happy to see that webOS is making another appearance with a considerable corporate push behind it. That it is doing so in such a polished package was just icing on the cake. We're looking forward to seeing the first wave of LG televisions packing the technology in the coming months. LG will be packing the OS into more than 70 percent of the televisions it releases in 2014, and it looks like the manufacturer might have a winner on its hands for sure.