WebOS, the mobile operating system created for Palm, is back, this time on a TV from LG. It was demoed on the company's stand at the giant consumer electronics tradeshow in Las Vegas, and Pocket-lint was invited ahead of the official first day to check out the new interface. Is it as smart as LG claims?
The approach with the WebOS-powered TV is that it's about accessing your content quickly - be it from from the web, LG's store, a PlayStation or your Sky box.
With that in mind a dedicated Smart TV page has been ditched in favour of jostling app swatches at the bottom of the screen that give you quick access.
According to LG, TV set-ups are part of the biggest problem in confusing and frustrating us. To help solve this, and presumably keep in with the "Life is Good" branding, LG has created Bean Bird, an animated bird that looks a lot like the Twitter bird, but made out of a bean. Yeah, very random.
Still Bean Bird, is a cute feathered thing that you tease and play with to help you get set-up and learn how to use the new magic wand remote that is now standard with the TV. Don't worry, in the picture above we haven't killed him, he is merely waiting to be woken up for the first time.
We can't/couldn't determine whether or not Bean Bird shows up elsewhere, like Clippy the Paperclip in Microsoft Office, but it's clear LG is going for a more playful approach here, and that is shown even more in the main user interface.
If you've got an interactive all singing, all dancing user interface then having a standard remote control isn't really going to cut it. LG has turned to its Magic Wand remote already available for its current TV ranges and made that the main controlling mechanism. It's been enhanced of course and made to look more like a traditional remote control, but the premise is the same. It works in a way similar to the Nintendo Wii Remote and sees you controlling a cursor by waving the remote around from your lap.
The remote and the on-screen cursor it controls are sensitive, but not so much that you are trying to steady your movements in fear of overshooting the target. The on-screen buttons are mostly large enough that there is some manoeuvrability if you get it wrong, but smaller buttons did still cause us some issues.
Wii gamers will be in their element though, and thankfully this time around there is no swashbuckling needed.
The User Interface
Rather than having a dedicated smart TV homepage or destination that you forget about, LG has taken an all empowering approach, similar to Microsoft's Xbox One, and ditched the smart TV hub element of the television altogether. The Smart TV elements like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and the LG download store are all sitting side-by-side with Inputs or Live TV, allowing you to jump to them quickly. It's certainly a lot prettier than going to an Input Source page.
These inputs, which the TV is clever enough to detect what they are called, can then be accessed very quickly, as long as you've got the remote, and then loaded. It's clear that the chances of you now using the web browser will be a lot higher, although we suspect you still won't bother.
Beyond the swatches of colour that is the menu system, the TV is keen to offer you suggestions of content from the LG download store, and the ability to add further apps.
There are also two types of WebOS menus that simplify discovery on LG Smart TVs. The first, called Live Menu, is accessible while viewing TV. It keeps the search, recommendation and channel options within easy reach. The second, Today Menu, acts as a one-stop content recommendation service for TV shows, missed programmes and full-feature movies.
If it sounds complicated it isn't. The interface is fast, clean, and colourful, but we do worry how it will integrate with a Sky box or other set-top boxes. We doubt you'll be able to program your Freeview box or all-in-one remote to work this.
It might be called WebOS but it's nothing like the WebOS we saw before on the Palm Pre. The interface is quick, responsive and easy to use harnessing all that multitasking capabilities touted on the phones.
WebOS failed to gain traction last time, but LG says this wasn't because it wasn't any good, it's just because Palm couldn't compete with the power of Android and iOS. As a TV platform that's different because the direct competition isn't so prevalent, but it's still left to see whether the platform will see developers returning. It is very unclear at the moment whether we will see WebOS TV apps flowing or trickling through.
The LG WebOS TV certainly offers something interesting and different from what we've seen before on a TV, either from LG or anyone else for that matter. Whether it is the solution to what we want or need is still to be discussed. We like the playful approach and the speed in which you can get to the bits you want, but worry that it means having yet another remote on your sofa.
We look forward to having a longer play with the new sets when they reach Pocket-lint's office for review.