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Lenovo puts Android 4.0 on TVs and tablets for CES

by Kristen Nicole

CES doesn’t officially kick off until tomorrow, but Las Vegas is already buzzing with gadget news. Android is one of the many highlights of the Consumer Electronics Show this year, as several product manufacturers weld their way deeper into the Android ecosystem. It’s a great boost for Google’s mobile platform, and fits well with the underlying theme of this year’s event: connected devices for real-world use.

Lenovo gets smart with Android 4.0

Lenovo stole the spotlight with the introduction of an Android-powered smart TV running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The 55-inch TV gives Lenovo a head start compared to other manufacturers unveiling Android-ready smart TVs at CES this week. Named the K91, Lenovo’s ICS smart TV has a 1080p display, a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM and a built-in 5-megapixel camera to support facial recognition. The K91 will also run a second interface in addition to Android ICS called the Sandwich UI, which supports video on-demand, web apps and regular TV programming. You’ll be able to control the TV through speech as well as with a compatible tablet or smartphone.

Speaking of compatible devices, Lenovo’s put Android ICS on another gadget: a 10-inch tablet and a new smartphone. The new tablet is called the IdeaTab S2, and will come with a 1.5GHz dual-core processor with 1GB or RAM and 16-64GB storage options. The IdeaTab S2 will also have a dock option that comes with a second battery for an additional 10 hours of use.

It’s important to note that Lenovo’s new Android device roundup also includes a smartphone (running Android 2.3), and is part of the company’s “Personal Cloud” vision for integrated software. It’s a way in which Lenovo and other device makers can promote brand loyalty, and also profit from the growing use cases for consumer-ready cloud computing. Mobile devices have brought about an on-demand culture and consumers now want all their content on hand, even on their TVs.

ZappoTV comes to Android

While Google’s smart TV launches fell flat at last year’s CES, 2012 could be different. Aside from Lenovo and other manufacturers (including Sony) creating television sets, ZappoTV is rounding out the ecosystem on the app side. ZappoTV revealed a beta Android version of its popular iOS app, offering a free Mobile Media Center to watch mobile content on a connected TV. It allows users to find their favorite podcasts, photos and videos from Facebook, Flickr or a storage device and send them to the TV. The app leverages ZappoTV’s DLNA and UPnP AV with a proprietary enhancement layer, extending home networking protocols to enable connected TVs and other media players to tap web-based content and make it all work seamlessly together.

Catching up to Apple TV

In many ways, these connected device developments are helping Android catch up with Apple’s AppleTV offering, which already shares content readily between Apple devices and media centers. Android could find a great opportunity in furthering its connected devices goal, improving around tablets, TVs and smartphones at the same time.