[opendtv] Content picture fuzzy for latest HDTVs

  • From: "Manfredi, Albert E" <albert.e.manfredi@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2008 10:30:53 -0500

Wow. What makes this interesting is that the supposed Internet
connection some of these new TVs offer, not to mention web sites
available to some cable customers, are actually just another form of a
walled garden. Not quite what some might have thought.


Content picture fuzzy for latest HDTVs
Displays are sleek, but content road map is bumpy

Rick Merritt
(01/11/2008 6:46 PM EST)
URL: http://www.eetimes.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=205603030

LAS VEGAS - It was clear at the Consumer Electronics Show that the
television has reached a new level of maturity as a beautiful piece of
hardware. What was less clear is what's next in content for these
gorgeous screens.

Some TV makers are developing their own initiatives to push a little bit
of Internet content to their latest high end TVs. Their efforts
mirror-and probably will compete with-- bigger initiatives in cable
companies to deliver services over the Open Cable networks they are

Meanwhile PC makers are trying to recruit third-party applications for
their living room TV products. This all comes at a time when studios and
cable companies are ramping up new online video sources geared more for
the PC screen.

Flat panel TVs now command a whopping 37 percent of all consumer
electronics revenues and three-quarters of those TVs are based on LCDs,
said Scott Ramirez, vice president of Toshiba's TV group, speaking at a
CES press conference. Rear-projection TVs are declining fast, growth for
plasma TVs is slowing and DLP screens seem to be confined to a high end

Riding the trend, LG Electronics rolled out 24 new LCD TVs and just
eight new plasma models. Expect the trend to continue for some time.

Sharp, which shipped about 74 million LCD panels last year, laid out
plans for its 10th generation LCD facility in Osaka. The 314-acre,
multi-company site will use 112x120-inch substrates capable of yielding
15 40-inch panels each when production starts in a couple years. And
there's more to come. 

"LCD technology has completed only a little more than half of its
possible evolution," said Toshihiko Fujimoto, chief executive of Sharp
Electronics Corp. at a CES press event.

Most of the LCD TVs rolled out this week were 30- to 50-inch screens
capable of 1080-progressive resolution, many at 120 Hz refresh rates.
The big question at CES was what new content viewer will see on those
massive screens in this era of the Internet.

Sharp rolled out AquosNet, a Web based push-service it plans for its
high-end TVs. The proprietary service will send weather, stock, high-res
slide shows and other bits of info to TVs via widgets that sit in a
corner of the screen and can be customized by users. Sharp will use
HomePlug AV powerline technology or an Ethernet link on the TV to get
the data from its proprietary Web portal. But don't expect full Internet

"We don't want to ask people to work with keyboards. This is a lean back
experience. Up to now PC/TVs have not been successful," said Bob
Scaglione, a senior vice president with Sharp US subsidiary.

AquosNet uses a Linux-based browser that does not support video yet, so
don't expect to call up your iTunes TV shows this way. The approach does
mirror the kinds of services cable companies are demonstrating with
their Open Cable Applications Platform which Comcast has rebranded

AquosNet "absolutely will be [competitive with OCAP]," said Scaglione.
"It gives TV makers more control over what content appears on their
screen," he added.

Taking a different approach, LG announced a deal with NetFlix that will
let the TV maker embedded technology into a "networked video player"
later this year to link to the NetFlix video download Web site. Neither
company would give technical details about what embedded hardware or
software they are using. But a Netflix spokesman said the company had a
team of people at CES talking to other TV makers.

"LG has an exclusive on this for about a week," the NetFlix spokesman
said. "We want to be in 100 boxes," he added.

Hewlett-Packard's Media Smart TV and home server, co-developed with
Microsoft, are already on the Net via Wi-Fi. But they cannot yet access
the full riches of cable and satellite TV content. Comcast said it is
slogging through issues with the Windows software stack trying to
determine if it is reliable and secure enough for two-way Cable Card
connections. Satellite TV companies have been quietly working with
Microsoft in the background for some time, but they had no news at CES.

In the meantime, HP is testing the Net as a return path to the cable
head-end so users can access video-on-demand and other services. "It's
still in test mode, but it's probably the cleanest solution I've seen,"
said Phil McKinney, chief technology officer of HP's personal systems

The convergence of PC and TVs is "not quite smooth, there are some rough
edges," he added. Meanwhile, HP and Microsoft are recruiting third-party
applications developers to write interesting software for the PC-based
home server they co-developed.

For their part, Hollywood studios have gotten the religion about online
video in the two years since Disney first agreed to make some TV shows
and movies available on Apple's iTunes Web site.

"There will be an explosion of online video content" in the coming year,
said Dan Fawcett, president of the digital media group at Fox
Entertainment at a CES panel of Hollywood executives.

One audience member complained about the "Easter egg hunt" required to
find good video on the Web. "That's exactly why we started Hulu," said
Fawcett. "It's going to be a destination site supported by multiple
studios to find the finest content from any source," he added of the
service to be launched later this year.

Comcast launched a similar Web site called Fancast at CES. It allows
users to watch, find and buy a variety of movies and TV shows Comcast
has aggregated as part of its cable TV service. Microsoft announced at
CES new deals from a handful of studios making movies and TV shows
available on its Xbox Live service.

"There are five or six interesting new players distributing video
content, and many studies are supporting them so you will see a lot of
traction in this area now," said Tom Lesinski, president of Paramount
Picture's digital division.

Lesinski noted that "Zoolander" is now its top selling movie on iTunes.
"We are selling 5-10 year old movies in hundreds of thousands of units,
so this is a significant new business for our library," he said.

Fawcett noted that many new high-def players for the Net are coming out
with new content available for the Web every quarter. How much of that
becomes available for those lovely new HDTV screens remains to be seen.

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