We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
79,629 News Articles

Panasonic Viera Connect brings apps to TV

But don't dump the PC, firm says

We spoke to Panasonic at the Gadget Show Live in Birmingham yesterday, and we were particularly interested to hear about the company's new Viera Connect web-connected TV system.

Oddly enough, both Panasonic execs we spoke to started the conversation by stressing to us that they're not offering a full browser. "We're not trying to replace the PC," they said. Panasonic is clearly being very careful about its PR approach on this one.

And indeed Viera Connect is not a full browser by any stretch of the imagination. Instead it allows you to access a range of heavily optimised apps through your TV, and thus access social networks, catchup TV services and games stores, among other features.

Digital Home Advisor

It's all accessed via the usual remote control - or by using your Apple iPhone and downloading a free Viera Remote app. At the touch of a button the TV programme you were watching retreats into the centre of the screen, with eight apps arranged around it. You can then choose to push 'forward' into another screen, with eight more apps, and so on. The arrangement of the apps in these screens is fully configurable, so you could have a screen's worth of entertainment apps, another of e-commerce apps, and so on.

Viera Connect - app screen

The larger, highlighted central rectangle contains whatever was on the screen before you activated Viera Connect

The whole system is cloud-based. There's a minimal amount of storage on the device itself, so games, music tracks and apps you download from the various stores will be kept online. You need to have web access for Connect to work.

Panasonic staff demonstrated the Skype app to us, and it worked beautifully. It's easy to instigate a video call using the simple controls, add contacts, receive calls from others - an alert pops up to let you know - and access voicemail.

One snag is that you have to use a specific, Panasonic-branded webcam, and we were told this was likely to cost £120. The firm defended this policy by saying that it would need to have a high resolution to work properly at the sort of distances people sit at when using large-screen TVs.

At the moment the range of apps is fairly limited, but Panasonic pointed out that companies such as LoveFilm are likely to be interested in signing up and getting another avenue to customers. And we heard really interesting ideas about health and fitness apps - such as connecting a treadmill and accessing Google Maps, so that you appear to be running around Hyde Park, or wherever you like.

'Not a full browser'

Pondering Panasonic's obsession with Connect not being a full browser experience, I decided that the company might be on to something. Despite predictions of the PC entering the living room, I don't think real-life consumers want living-room computing to be the same as the office PC experience. They don't want complication, huge numbers of powerful applications, or even to use a keyboard. They want to cherry-pick a few PC functions that work well when you're sitting on a sofa 2m away.

Panasonic's vision of the living-room PC isn't a PC at all, of course, as the execs made clear. It's a TV with a few apps. Skype works in the living room - indeed is probably nicer when you can make yourself comfortable on the sofa - and iPlayer is much better on a large screen. Games work well too, as does Facebook. But a full browser in the living room? That's for the birds.


IDG UK Sites

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 review: The best iPad mini and Nexus 7 rival tablet around

IDG UK Sites

Which Mac? Complete Apple Mac buyers guide for 2014

IDG UK Sites

Mobile email is powerful and useful - but also hopelessly intrusive

IDG UK Sites

Samsung lights up London skyline with Midnight Rainbow