November 1, 2014

Netflix and LG get Together

I have to admit that I have a fairly low tech house.  We are unquestionably the last house on the block to have the thinnest HD TV, but yet we still have more clutter around the television than we should.  At last count there were two remotes, the Wii with its remotes and nunchucks, DVD player (and its remote).  Enough!

LG and Netflix are going to eliminate some of the clutter with new high-definition LG televisions that can screen Netflix movies directly from the Web without an external box.

The televisions, which use broadband Internet technology, will be available in four models — LCDs with 42-inch and 47-inch screens, and plasma TVs with 50-inch and 60-inch screens.

Sharper Image is Back

Remember the vibrating chair and the nose hair trimmers?   Sharper Image, the company who filed for bankruptcy and closed its stores in 2008, is remaking itself and has plans for a comeback.
This time, Sharper Image will be selling a variety of home electronics under their Sharper Image name, but in independent stores nationwide, not in their own stores.

From the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas:

The assortment of products, which range from iPod®-compatible bedside stereo systems to design-savvy wireless audio components and stress-relieving sound soothers™, are designed, manufactured and sold by Sharper Image Products (SI PRODUCTS), The Sharper Image licensee for Home Audio. The Sharper Image Home Audio product line will officially debut January 8th at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (Central Hall, Booth 12838) and will begin shipping in Q3 2009.

“Modern consumers want products that provide cutting-edge technology while reflecting their own personal style. Our mission at Sharper Image Products is to create products that offer style and innovation while enhancing and simplifying our customer’s busy lifestyles,” said Lynda Rose, VP of Product Development and Marketing, SI Products. “The Sharper Image brand is synonymous with creative technology and timeless design. We’re confident that these new offerings will not only meet, but exceed consumers’ expectations.”

“We look forward to launching the other categories that we’ve licensed, including Home Environment, Health and Wellness, Men’s Gifts, Concierge and Men’s Grooming.” said Ron Ferber, President of SI PRODUCTS, the licencee of Sharper Image.

“We look forward to launching the other categories that we’ve licensed, including Home Environment, Health and Wellness, Men’s Gifts, Concierge and Men’s Grooming.”

You can read more about the Sharper Image product line, which will be released later this year, here.

LG Electronics Wants YOU!

LG electronics has been around since 1958 when it was established as Goldstar.  In 1995 it changed its name to LG Electronics.  It has spent most of those years as a quiet second (or even third) choice electronics option or most people.  That it already changing.

Now Andrew Barrett, LG’s vice-president, marketing, for LG Electronics Canada Ltd. announces he has big plans for LG’s future in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

 “It seems like only yesterday that LG was a rather ordinary, personality-less, original equipment manufacturer. “The only way LG could shake the shackles of being lesser known,” Mr. Barrett says, “was to be seen as a brand of desire.” ”

The new strategy: To seed the company’s global operations with a marketing mindset geared to a sense of style.  Think red steam washing machines.

Style implies taste, and taste can be tricky. Consider Scarlet, the LG TV with the brazenly red back panel. “When your positioning is based on style … the TVs can’t just be a black box that looks like everybody else’s TVs,” he says. The reaction to the Scarlet has been polarizing. “There were some who absolutely loved it, and others who were appalled by it and never wanted to see it in their home,” he says.

Two weeks ago Mr. Barrett was tapped by LG HQ to lead the company’s just-announced global sponsorship for Formula 1 racing.

“There’s a social style, a social status, a premium-ness that sits around F1,” he says, expressing how he believes the style-technology harmony of the racing circuit makes a perfect match for the style-technology focus of LG. Think Monte Carlo and yachts and celebrities and cerulean vistas. “We think we’re the Monte Carlo of consumer electronics,” he says.

The job grows bigger. Any day now the company will announce a broadening of Mr. Barrett’s marketing responsibilities to encompass what he will define only as a “significant portion of the world’s geography,” reporting to the chief marketing officer for LG worldwide.

Made in China – PR Problem?

“Made in China”  I search for this phrase daily now as I shop for my family.  When my son was only three, he would search for it on his toys and we would all joke about how everything we owned was made in China.  Now I’m trying to avoid these imported products.  I, like so many Americans have become leery of China’s goods.  Tainted milk and fish have marked all Chinese products and so even high quality  small electronics are being avoided.  Tim Somheil of Appliance Magazine writes more:

The appliance industry sources huge numbers of small electrics, consumer electronics, and even white goods out of China. The vast majority are high-quality appliances, well made, certified to international safety standards, and—because they’re made in China—they offer a cost advantage that enables the consumer to get a better product for the price.

Of course,it is a vast overgeneralization by the public to associate well-made appliances with tainted milk, but that association is reality.

China—for the good of all the enterprises that manufacture consumer goods within its borders—desperately needs to take a more honest approach. When there’s a crisis involving Chinese-made products, of any kind, the country needs to embrace that problem immediately and publicly.

Consider how pleasantly surprised consumers would be if they saw China demonstrate willingness to take ownership of a crisis, without hesitation, and provide full disclosure on the problem’s cause and scope.

And consider what the impact would be if offshore consumers saw this approach consistently. The credibility of the government as a spokesperson for the “Made in China” brand would grow—and China would get real credit from the public for its considerable product safety efforts.

Maybe the best possible scenario in the next few years is to move many consumers’ perception from negative to neutral. That’s still a huge step in the right direction for all manufacturers with “Made in China” stamped on their products.

At this point I really have very little confidence in the integrity of Chinese manufacturers.  I’m no longer incredulous when I hear of a problem product out of China – instead I sigh and hope for the safety of those effected.

Consumers are Letting it be Known – They Want Green Electronics

If you’ve been searching for a greener television, help might soon be at hand.  The consumer electronics industry is listening to research from a September 2008 study:

Going Green: An Examination of the Green Trend and What it Means to Consumers and the CE (consumer electronics) Industry. This study  finds that 89 percent of households want their next television to be more energy efficient.

“Consumers are now beginning to associate terms like recycling and energy efficiency with consumer electronics products,” said Tim Herbert, the Consumer Electronic Association’s  senior director of market research. According to the study, price and features continue to be the primary purchase drivers for CE products, but green attributes will increasingly be a factor. In fact, 53 percent of consumers say they would be willing to pay some type of premium for televisions with green attributes.

Effectively communicating the green attributes of CE products continues to be an obstacle for manufacturers in particular. Though the study indicates high consumer awareness of logos like EPA’s ENERGY STAR®, the absence of a single indicator for other “green” attributes leads to consumer confusion. The study finds consumers desire an easy way to determine if a product meets environmental standards, such as logos and descriptions printed on the product packaging.

“With 74 percent of consumers saying that companies should do more to protect the environment, it’s critical that CE manufacturers and retailers clearly communicate with customers regarding the environmentally-friendly products and programs offered by the industry,” notes Parker Brugge, CEA’s vice president of environmental affairs and industry sustainability.

If the manufacturers are listening, we should soon be able to walk into our local electronics store and easily identify a hi-definition, flat screen, surround sound, environmentally friendly television right away.  But- will it be on sale?

Stop Playing Games and Save Energy

We’re all trying to save money these days.  Using less energy by turning off lights and lowering your thermostat are goo ways to cut down on your energy bill, but here is a small step that can help you save a little more – Turn of your Wii, or Xbox when you are done playing.

Video game consoles nationwide use about as much electricity in a year as every home in San Diego combined, and can significantly add to consumers’ electric bills, according to a new report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Much of this energy use is consumed by machines that are left on, but not in use.

“If you leave your Xbox 360 or Sony Play Station 3 on all the time, you can cut your electric bill by as much as $100 a year simply by turning it off when you are finished playing,” said NRDC Senior Scientist Noah Horowitz. “With so many struggling in today’s economy – it’s important to realize there are simple steps gamers can take to lower their energy costs. And if manufacturers make future systems more energy efficient, they’ll be doing the right thing for consumers’ pockets, for our clean energy future, and for the environment.”

Looking at the “big three” video game consoles – Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft XBox360 and Nintendo’s Wii – the report measured the amount of power they use when they are active, idle and turned off. It found these systems use nearly the same amount of power when you are playing them as they do when you leave them on and walk away. The Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 also operate as high-definition video players. When they are used this way, the consoles continue to operate at nearly peak energy levels, even after the movie ends, unless the device is turned off.

National video game energy use is growing as more and more homes have these devices and additional features are added. The report offers solutions for individuals to cut their game console-related energy costs and offers recommendations on how manufacturers can dramatically improve the efficiency of the next generation of consoles that are being developed. NRDC is working with the leading video game hardware and software designers to help make these improvements. In particular, NRDC is working to make sure users will be able to automatically save their settings and place in the game before they shut down the systems.

Consumers Like Touch Screen Technology

My Oven has it and so does my new phone – touch screen technology is becoming hugely popular.  Apple started it with the iphone and now manufacturers of everything from consumer electronics to white goods are trying to keep up.  The cell phone industry in particular wants to compete with Apple’s iphone.

“Consumers are looking for displays with higher resolution, contrast, and more-sophisticated touch screen technology in applications that previously utilized simple LED or LCD displays,” says Gary Olson, director of engineering, Control Products (Chanhassen, MN, U.S.; www.controlproductsinc.com). “Appliance makers have high expectations from their control developers. Expertise in advanced features along with advanced graphics is necessary to keep pace with market demands.”

The latest product offerings from Electrolux feature control panels that appear “dark” and blank until touched to illuminate and reveal a bright and colorful display allowing operation of all functions. The displays on the new line of premium appliances use touch sensors to detect touch and tell the panel to turn on, and when touch is no longer sensed, they turn off to leave a sleek and blank display.

Even as touch screens become more popular, some suppliers are exploring the next advance to provide options that go beyond touch.

It seems uncharacteristic for a control panel to eliminate the need for an actual touch, but smart technologies are enabling it. The answer for WaveOn Technologies Inc. is a touchless sensor, designed to be so sensitive it can detect a near-touch from 3 in. away, even when placed beneath 10-mm-thick plastic.

Although the technology is now common with flat-panel TVs and glass range cooktops, WaveOn’s technology is pushing the envelope further. The company is looking into applications where a detection of movement might come in handy. One example is the kitchen, where hands are commonly messy with food preparation. Here the sensors could help consumers raise or lower radio or TV volume or answer a phone without touching a thing.

“The key concern of many consumers is that if [the control panel] looks elegant, it is likely to be fragile and less durable than systems they’re used to,” says Brenton Judge, engineering director, Defond Group Ltd. Defond in the United States includes Defond North America LLC (Raleigh, NC, U.S., www.dnagroup.com). “By giving customers a system that essentially has an infinite life span and is resistant to dirt and spillages at a minimal cost, we can boost the acceptance of electronic controls in the appliance market.”

To achieve this, Defond is placing smart digital control underneath the facade of traditional mechanical switches that consumers believe to be more reliable. The supplier says its specialty is control systems that simplify use by integrating instructions into the product itself via the display and adding sensors that enable a product to self-adjust according to how a consumer uses the product.

You can read more about this here.

Need Help with Technology? You’re not Alone.

So many wonderful new gadgets.  So many user handbooks to read.

Some 48% of technology users usually need help from others to set up new devices or to show them how they function.  “Struggles with modern gadgetry mean less engagement with the services they enable,” said John B. Horrigan, Associate Director of the Pew Internet Project. “Time spent dealing with set-up or outages means less time using modern communication services to connect with friends or find information that might help people be more productive.”

Although tech users can usually fix the problems by themselves, with the help of friends, or by calling upon user support, some say they cannot fix tech problems at all. Here are some of the ways device owners fixed their broken technology:

  • 38% of users with failed technology contacted user support for help.
  • 28% of technology users fixed the problem themselves.
  • 15% fixed the problem with help from friends or family.
  • 15% of tech users were unable to fix their devices
  • 2% found help online.

“In an age in which new technologies are introduced almost daily, a new gadget or service can become popular well before the technology itself is understood by the average user,” said Sydney Jones, Research Assistant at the Pew Internet & American Life Project. “Naturally, some users catch on to new technology more quickly than others, and those who have more trouble grasping the technology are left confused, discouraged, and reliant on help from others when their technology fails.”

Read more here.