http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/10/technology/10electronics.html?th&emc=th Fixated on TVs, and What's on Them By MATT RICHTEL Published: January 10, 2008The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week was an unabashed display of high-technology gadgetry. Televisions, enormously wide and remarkably thin, were front and center, and overhead, and in the faces of all the visitors to the expansive show, which ends Thursday. Some advertised other new products, but most were there just to display images that were slightly crisper than those seen years before.
They also displayed the hope of the industry: televisions connected to the Internet and ready to receive new forms of entertainment on demand. The show has always been the display place for hardware, but this year software, information and entertainment content edged toward center stage. Three reporters at the show got three views of how the industry's emphasis on content will affect the future of home electronics.
"We already all have beautiful HD televisions. How do you differentiate?" said Bob Scaglione, senior vice president for marketing of Sharp's American arm. "One way to provide some really unique differentiation is to provide new content."
"That's why we're fighting to find the right content providers."The world's biggest television makers announced a series of partnerships with media companies that will allow delivery of Internet content like videos, news feeds, weather and sports directly to the TV, without the intervention of a PC to complicate matters and confuse consumers.
Sharp unveiled deals to provide weather, stock quotes and comic strips. Samsung Electronics has a deal with USA Today to provide news, weather and stock information straight to its TVs.
Panasonic showed how its TVs will pull down YouTube videos and images stored on Google's Picasa service.
The companies also announced a handful of new televisions capable of receiving Internet content - over Ethernet or wireless connections. But to the insiders here, the electronics show 2008 was less about the products than the partnerships.
The deals are just the beginning, the TV makers hope. They say they are a hint of what could become a new and intimate relationship between the heretofore isolationist hardware makers and upstart creators of Internet content.
In a small meeting with journalists, Toshihiro Sakamoto, president and senior managing director of Panasonic, the American brand name for the home electronics of Matsushita Electric Industrial, said the company must do a better job of working with content providers. "Without them, we can't make a big TV," he said.
In other words, his television sets, no matter how big (and Panasonic displayed a 150-inch monster), will not compete unless they are better integrated into the content food chain.
In the longer term, a more direct relationship with content providers could give them a little more strength in negotiating with cable companies that are still the main pipeline of premium content. In the immediate term, it might give them a cut of revenue from the delivery of content. Jeffrey Cove, vice president for technology and alliances at Panasonic, declined to discuss the financial terms of the company's deal with Google's YouTube and Picasa. But he did say: "We're the collectors. We are providing an outlet for eyeballs."
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