Smart TVs, or internet-connected TVs as they should really be called, were supposed to make watching your favourite programmes and movies better and simpler. Thanks to the wonder of internet streaming and apps, all of the TV catch-up services and online movie rental services would be available at the press of a remote button. No longer would we have to remember to set the timer on the PVR or wait for discs to arrive in the post or pay through the nose for Sky Movies. Everything would be available in one place. Except it hasn’t worked out that way.
It takes around 11 hours to fly from London to Las Vegas, the home of the massive, annual Consumer Electronics Show so we take a keen interest in anything to do with in-flight entertainment technology. We were surprised to discover that Japanese electronics giant Panasonic apparently holds a 72% share of the market for the entertainment systems built into airline seats.
Panasonic fits the screens and the related backend technologies into the back of plane seats in close collaboration with both the specific airline as well as the seat manufacturer and the plane manufacturer (typically either Boeing or Airbus). Panasonic both retrofits older planes and equips new ones during construction. Panasonic's brand doesn't appear anyway on any of the technology or onscreen, which is reserved for the airline's marketing use.
Read more: CES 2013 news
Panasonic demonstrated the 11, 12 and 18in high definition displays it fits into the cabins of Air New Zealand planes. Although small, the displays were a far cry from the fuzzy, non-widescreen displays often used in older plane entertainment systems. In business class, the displays are mounted on retractable, adjustable stands also designed by Panasonic to the airline's specifications.
We were also surprised to discover that Panasonic also manufactures on-board Wifi equipment. Panasonic uses a terrestrial-based internet service beamed from the ground to the plane via radio waves, thus limiting the service to the continental United States. Deploying a similar ground-based internet service elsewhere in the world can be tricky, as transmitters would need to be deployed in the countries flown over on each route – this can be a complex web of logistical, legal and regulatory requirements depending on the route and countries in question.
Despite this, Panasonic is still pushing for the deployment of Wifi in planes even when internet service isn't available. The wireless technology can still be used to serve entertainment content to passenger's own computing devices, but hopefully not new episodes of the X-Factor.
Finding a full user manual for a mobile phone, camera or tablet is increasingly rare. Buyers often find a quick setup guide, usually in pictorial format (this is often so that the same support material can be provided in a number of countries - printing one guide being much cheaper than dedicated versions for several languages). When instruction manuals are provided, it's rarely in print - PDF being the format of choice for many manufacturers.
It's an increasing source of frustration for many people, and a subject that is raised frequently by Computeractive readers.
Derek Everett bought the Panasonic DMC-FZ200 camera "and was less than pleased to find and the manual, which should be carried around at all times due to the camera's complexity, is 220 pages long. By not including a printed version, Panasonic has increased profits by probably not more than £5, at the expense of customer relations," said Mr Everett.
CES is an exercise in two things; queuing and hyperbole. Today, set in the artifice of the endless Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, is all about speeches. From 8am to 8pm, companies try to persuade and suggest that they have 'the next big thing' - or at the very least something close.
If 2011 is going to be 'the year of the tablet', someone clearly didn't tell IFA. While the thousands of exhibitors lining the halls of the impossibly big Messe in Berlin have undoubtedly 'gone big' on tablets (Toshiba, Sony, Samsung and Acer to name four of the big ones), there is another piece of tech that has attempted to take the limelight.
Updating your subscription status