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Samsung's video search tool for TVs will be coming to tablets, too

Exec TJ Kang tells CNET that certain tablets will be able to use the new feature that lets users search live TV and various streaming services through one app.

Samsung America Senior Vice President Joe Stinziano describes new features for TVs, including a feature that allows users to search all video services and live TV in one screen. James Martin/CNET
LAS VEGAS -- Samsung's new video search tool, which the company unveiled yesterday for its TVs, will also be available for certain tablets this spring, a Samsung executive told CNET.

That means users will be able to use one app to navigate all of their different video services, and use their tablets as a remote to control their TVs, TJ Kang, senior vice president of Samsung's media solution center, told CNET in an interview after Samsung's press conference yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In his role, Kang oversees new services and apps made by Samsung for its products.

"You could either stream video to the tablet and start watching on the tablet and take it anywhere with you, or if you want to share that video with other family members, you can send that to the TV," Kang said. "We're giving that seamless, multiscreen, multiuser experience."

One of the biggest criticisms of smart TVs like those from Samsung is that they're too difficult to use. It can be frustrating and time consuming to navigate between all the different video streaming services on a device, as well as including live TV in the mix.

In addition, if someone wants to switch between cable and Internet-based streaming services on a TV, they typically have to switch remote controls and change the HDMI port by hitting the input button on the remote. None of that makes for very quick or seamless video searching.

Samsung's new technology, which right now doesn't have a name but is referred to by the company as a video discovery service, allows users to search all of the different video sources through one single app. When the service launches this spring, it also will be available for certain Samsung mobile devices, Kang said.

Here's how it works: If someone searches for "Modern Family" using Samsung's program, the results would include anything currently on live TV, as well as episodes available from Netflix and other streaming services. So instead of going to Netflix, Blockbuster, and other individual apps, everything would show up in one list.

If the program is currently playing, Kang said, a person would be able to use his tablet as a remote to power the set-top box and immediately watch the video on their TV. The key is the infrared control included in the tablet. That means only a couple current Samsung mobile devices would work after getting a software upgrade -- the Galaxy Note 10.1 and the 10.1 inch Galaxy Tab 2.

"We do have tablets that already have infrared emitters embedded so the solution will work with legacy home entertainment devices," Kang said. "Not all the home entertainment devices have the smarts that allow us to do this. We're using infrared technology to bridge the gap."

Kang noted that some users won't be able to watch live TV on their tablets unless they have a Samsung smart TV that can stream the program from the television screen to the tablet.

Samsung has been working with Netflix, Dish, service providers and other companies to "make this experience as seamless as possible," Kang said.

"They're all on board with it," he added.

Kang was coy about whether this capability will also appear in smartphones (like the expected Galaxy S4) but said no products on the market currently have the infrared technology required to act as the remote for older devices.

The new TVs with the video discovery service, he said, will likely hit the market in March. Samsung plans to name the service and launch a big marketing promotion around the technology in the spring.

Kang also said Samsung plans to expand its Music Hub service, currently available only on mobile phones and tablets, to Blu-ray players and smart TVs. He added that it may even appear on appliances like refrigerators. In addition, Samsung may bring its e-book service to the U.S., Kang said. Right now the service is available in Europe.

"You'll start seeing many of these services [that] I think will now benefit our company's reputation in hardware," Kang said. "We do have a pretty big team of people in several continents working to differentiate on the content and services side, as well as on the hardware side. You'll begin to see the fruits of that labor starting with this video discovery service. It's the first that will be unveiled and we have many more to come."