Sunday, May 24, 2009

TVs with internet coming soon

Berlin - You no longer need to bring your laptop over to the couch to check the weather or your RSS feeds while watching TV. Many new flat screen TVs offer an internet connection as an alternative to the old-fashioned video text option familiar to many.

That means you can play back a YouTube clip even while watching something else in the main window. Are hard times ahead for the PC as the multimedia hub? Hard to tell. The internet remains the province of high-end devices for right now, but it seems likely to move into more affordable TVs in the near future as well.

All attempts to bring internet to the television have struggled to date. Neither set-top web boxes nor receivers with web functionality made any headway, either due to a lack of features or poor reception on tube televisions.

"Set-top web boxes are too expensive, slow and unstable, and it's much more complicated to surf with them than on a computer. And on top of that, there's the bad picture quality." That was how the German consumer testing organisation Stiftung Warentest saw the landscape back in 2000.

New generation

The new generation of Ethernet or WLAN-ready TV devices offers crisp text, images, and graphics. They generally do not provide a fully integrated browser. The manufacturers instead prepare special programming and content that can be accessed via remote control.

"The new concepts are winning converts through simple, familiar controls and the kind of attractive content that catches the attention of PC naysayers as well," reads a review from Video magazine.

Philips is calling its internet service Net-TV. Devices in the 9000 series work with WLAN, while those in the 8000 series and the widescreen 21:9 models work with LAN connections. Unlike other manufacturers, Philips allows the internet information to take up the entire screen.

The user gets started by navigating to the Net-TV home page. Philips has established partnerships with content providers willing to adapt their content for the TV screen. In Germany this includes major web sites like,, and YouTube as well as MyAlbum as a photo archive. It's also possible to enter in internet addresses directly, although Net-TV is unable to work with either Java or Flash.

At Panasonic the internet mode is called Viera Cast and involves little program windows surrounding a reduced-sized TV image. These "widgets" show the weather, stock prices from Bloomberg TV, latest headlines and videos television stations as well as clips from YouTube. Viera Cast is slated to be integrated into the V 10, G 15 and Z 1 devices.

Samsung has dubbed its programme Internet@TV. It provides only one program window next to the TV image. That can be YouTube clips, as well as headlines or weather reports delivered from Yahoo. The photos section is provided via the Flickr service.

Samsung also offers a "content library," which provides space to store videos, texts or photos, allowing the TV to be used as a form of digital frame. A "widget engine" from Yahoo will allow users to integrate their own little programs. Internet@TV will be available for units in the 6, 7, 8, 7000 and 8000 series.

Sony has outfitted models in the E5, V5, W5 and WE5 series with Ethernet jacks. The manufacturer calls the new internet functions AppliCast Services. It will initially offer access to photos stored on the internet servers and reading of reports sent to the TV through RSS feeds. The TV can access music, photos, and films (MPEG 2 and AVC-HD) on a local network using the DLNA standard.


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