Samsung to launch smart TV converter kit

The world's largest TV seller showed a small device meant to bring HD Internet, video conferencing to the living room.

Samsung on Sunday showed a device that converts standard televisions into smart TVs, providing high-definition Internet access, Skype video conferencing and a small wireless keyboard remote.

The world's largest seller of TVs, which will launch Internet-enabled models this year based on the Google TV platform, aims to offer a low-cost product that doesn't require purchasing a new set. TV and electronics manufacturers are racing to find a winning formula for so-called smart TVs, which add Web content to traditional programming.

Samsung displayed the InTouch device at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It resembles a Web camera and is designed to be perched atop standard TV sets, hooking into a household's existing wireless Internet network. It will debut in the U.S. in April for US$199.

"We're trying to focus on people who can't afford smart TVs," said Henry Kim, a lead project manager for the device at Samsung. "We want to give them the experience of connecting from their living room."

The InTouch runs Android version 2.3, with a modified interface that runs a limited set of pre-approved apps, including YouTube, Skype, a standard Web browser and a photo sharing program. Its hardware includes a front-facing camera, dual microphone and HDMI output. A main focus of the software is its custom Skype interface, which is featured prominently and billed as hassle-free to set up.

The device also comes with a QWERTY keyboard-equipped remote about the size of a mobile phone.

Kim said the InTouch will also be offered abroad, though the U.S. is the main focus.

Samsung made 23 percent of global TV revenues in the third quarter of 2011, according to data vendor DisplaySearch, ahead of the 13 percent generated by nearest rival LG.

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