Samsung has teased what it is calling, "a true innovation of TV design" and an "unprecedented new TV shape and timeless design" for CES 2013. The company included an image that might indicate the new device is see-through, and definitely shows that Samsung has no intention to cede the TV market to Apple.
First, the image.
Samsung Promo Pic for New TV
That image was posted to Samsung's Korean language blog SamsungTomorrow (as spotted by The Verge) with no other information than the quote mentioned above.
The question, of course, is what that image actually represents. Is it a see-through TV or a bleak and washed out image that's supposed to connote the idea that this TV can add a tree to a beach. Or maybe it's a snowscape. It's hard to tell, but at least there's a tree.
In portrait mode. Because people are clamoring for TVs in portrait mode.
Whatever, the real message here is that Samsung has some very cool technology and is not about to let Apple sheen in with some Steve Jobs "I've finally cracked it" nonsense and go all disruptive. At least not without a fight.
For sure, there's nothing specific to Apple in this tease. The iPhone-maker isn't mentioned, but you can be sure that Samsung has all of these Apple TV rumors on its collective corporate mind.
He added, “When Steve Jobs talked about he’s ‘cracked it’, he’s talking about connectivity – so we’ve had that in the market already for 12 months, it’s nothing new, it was new for them because they didn’t play in the space. It’s old news as far as the traditional players are concerned and we have broadened that with […] things like voice control and touch control; the remote control for these TVs has a touch pad.”
In other words, a Samsung executive felt compelled to dismiss whatever it is that Apple is working on even though Samsung has no clue what that even is.
Since then, rumors about Apple entering the TV space have gotten more serious. We've gone from quotes about Steve Jobs working on a TV interface in his biography, to Tim Cook telling the world that his company is serious about TVs. Added to that are a flurry of leaks from Apple's supply chain about Apple testing and/or building TV sets for release in 2013.
You can be absolutely sure that Samsung takes this very, very seriously. If Apple can disrupt the TV market like it did smartphones and tablets (and netbooks), Samsung could find itself hurting. It's a global leader in the status quo market, and Apple gaining share in that space would likely come at Samsung's expense to at least some extent.
That said, 2012 showed us that Samsung is a formidable opponent, especially when Apple is there to show the company how to do it. In TVs, the company is more formidable still. Samsung is a global leader in display production, and it has years and years of experience making TVs.
What we see in this tease from Samsung is a reminder to the rest of the world that this is so, that Samsung is a leader in this industry. It may or may not be intending to release a portrait-mode TV (come on, seriously?) that you can see through (OK, that's seriously cool, if impractical), but it has all manner of patents and killer technology in this space.
More importantly, Samsung is not afraid to use those patents and killer technologies. That's what Samsung is telling us with this tease.
Too bad it won't matter. If Apple releases a TV—whatever it is the company has planned—you can be sure that it will be disruptive, and you can be sure that Apple will own one more key technologies that make it possible.