Wednesday, January 23, 2008

CES 2008: TV, meet the internet.

In looking at the big hits at CES this year, especially in the HDTV category, several trends stand out: Wireless was big, Super-Slim LCDs, OLED. There’s one trend that stood out to me in a big way. A lot of manufacturers are offering up content solutions and aggregators for the TV. Apple TV was an early entry into this category – but it really never took off. It’ll be interesting to see if consumers adopt this. My computer has taken over my TV viewing almost entirely. I think part of it is just that I spend more time on the computer than I do watching TV. But for someone who’s an Xbox live subscriber, I can definitely see the benefit of having your friends list active while watching TV. Here are some of the featured products debuted at CES.


Sharp AQUOS Net lets you download widgets to your TV and has a customizable interface as well as a web browser that connects via Ethernet cable.

“With AQUOS Net, Sharp is opening up a world of display possibilities for consumers,” said Bob Scaglione, senior vice president and group manager, Product and Marketing Group, Sharp Electronics Corporation. “AQUOS Net provides the ultimate in convenience, and we intend to allow users access to important information like stock quotes, the local weather and even the ability to receive instant advice and help to maintain the optimal picture on their television - all without ever having to leave the TV.”

The current selection of web-based content for the widgets seems pretty limited at the moment, and it does add a cost of $200 to the TV.

Sony Bravia Internet Video Link will allow users to access Yahoo and AOL content via Ethernet using a set top box that attaches thru the TV’s HDMI link. Users can browse the Internet using their TV remotes enabled by an icon based custom user interface.

Image by Gizmodo.

Samsung debuted the world’s first MS Windows Media Center television at CES along with Samsung’s DMA (Digital Media Adaptor), which works similarly to Sony’s Internet Video Link by attaching the TV to an Ethernet connection. Samsung’s device also functions as a Microsoft Media Center extender.

"People want to bring digital entertainment from the PC to a big-screen HDTV, and with the addition of popular consumer companies such as Samsung to the growing list of Extender partners, Windows Media Center makes that possible for an even wider audience," said Enrique Rodriguez, corporate vice president of the Connected Television Division at Microsoft. "Such growing industry support validates Microsoft's approach of using Extender for Windows Media Center technology to deliver the ultimate connected entertainment experience."

Samsung has also announced a partnership with USA Today to offer news, local weather, and other information from the newspaper’s site. This feature will be available on Samsung Series 6 or Series 7 LCD and Plasma HDTV. The content is accessible thru an RSS button on the TVs remote which actives a customized interface for browsing. I’m not sure if Sharp’s AQUOS Net has this feature as well, but the Samsung will also allow you to continue to watch your live TV programming while browsing the content.

Panasonic’s entry into the category is also an Ethernet connected TV. They’ve partnered with Google to serve up videos via YouTube and photos via their Picasa property. It sounds like it will operate similarly to the way the iPhone does.

Image by Wired.

I think it’s a sign of the times seeing the breadth of internet enabled TVs coming onto the market, but I still feel like the mass audience wont adopt this medium until you can fully browse the internet seamlessly rather than be limited to certain content providers. I want ALL the content on my terms. I’m not likely to buy a Panasonic because I want the YouTube content. MAYBE I’d buy a Samsung because its MS Media Room enabled, but hey, I may be slightly biased.


Those who feel the way I do about wanting it all may end up moving in this direction. There are quite a few options introduced at CES that go more the route of Apple TV with PC to TV players that allow you to take content from your PC and stream to your television. Check out SlingCatcher from Sling Media, D-Link’s PC-on-TV Player and Tivo Desktop 2.5 which allows Tivo Series 2 owners to not only save content from their Tivo to PC, but vice versa.

Microsoft Media Room is going to be a big player in this category. It connects your TV to other devices so you can stream content (music, photos, movies and games) from your PC to your television. It will also be available thru Xbox live, which means you can chat with your Xbox buddies while watching TV. It also has a guide that lets you search through live or upcoming TV programming, in addition to your personal music and photos.

Will people buy it?

Survey says yes. According to a survey by iSuppli, Consumers want to bridge the PC to Internet gap:

Nearly two-thirds of consumers want their televisions to link to the Internet, a sentiment that will help propel rapid sales growth for network-enabled consumer electronics devices in the coming years, according to iSuppli Corp.

“The awareness and demand for media home networking is growing rapidly among consumers,” said Steve Rago, principal analyst, networking/optical communications for iSuppli. “According to iSuppli’s first-quarter 2007 consumer-demand survey, 61 percent of respondents ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that they wanted the ability to network the Internet to their televisions. Male respondents were even more favorable, with a 71 percent ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ response.”

According to Cnet “Sharp and Samsung are banking on three factors. One, that people do want to get Internet information through their TVs despite past history. Two, that turning on a TV to get weather or headlines is more attractive than booting up your PC. And three, that they don't want to pay for the service or own another box.”

Check out these articles for more info:
So What the $*@% Is Aquos Net?
Sharp Aquos Net: Widget TV
CES: Sony Introduces Internet TV System
CNET: Samsung streams video and music to your HDTV

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