HDTVs and Internet Tie Knot in Vegas
There is no Elvis wedding chapel hosting the ceremony here in Las Vegas this week, but two technologies tied the knot: The Internet and HDTVs.
The marriage of TV and Internet content on one big screen in the living room has been a dream in the tech and telecom industries for years now. At this year's CES, a number of tech companies are taking the first major steps toward making that dream a reality.
Some of the most promising of those steps are being made by TV manufacturers introducing Internet-connected TVs, and media companies like Yahoo designing ways to get Web content onto those TVs.
A spate of new Internet-connected TVs were announced here at CES, including ones from Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, Toshiba and Vizio. Connected TVs come with an ethernet port on the back so that you can plug your DSL directly into the TV and watch YouTube videos, rent Internet movies from services like Netflix or view your Flickr photos from the comfort of your couch. You don't need a PC, a keyboard or a mouse, just a remote control.
Starting with the TVs, Panasonic announced two new connected TVs this year, as well as new direct-to-TV content agreements with Amazon movies, YouTube and others.
Similarly, LG announced direct-to-TV content arrangements with Netflix Watch Instantly, CinemaNow and YouTube. (A Netflix person I spoke to here at the show says his company intents to pipe its Watch Instantly movie service directly to every device "from toaster ovens to ham radios." LG also announced before the CES show that those same net video services could be accesses and viewed through their new connected Blu-Ray Disc players.
Sony's new XBR9 and Z-series televisions are both Ethernet-ready and will be able to stream video from the likes of YouTube, Amazon, and music from Slacker.
On the content side, Yahoo is leading the way with its new Yahoo ConnectedTV product, a platform allowing a series of "web widgets" to appear in a "dock" at the bottom of the screen of your Internet-connected TV. So while you're watching your favorite TV show, these "mini-applications" let you pop out to the Web and watch YouTube videos, social network on News Corp's MySpace.com, track stocks and sports teams using Yahoo's services, buy and sell on eBay, micro-blog on Twitter, or look at photos at Flickr.
Expect many other websites to develop widgets for Yahoo's ConnectedTV platform. I spoke casually with a Skype executive who wondered why his company did not already have one on display - a Skype widget would be a natural for Yahoo's platform.
Yahoo says that new connected TVs from Samsung, Sony, LG and Vizio will support its ConnectedTV widgets. Samsung will likely be the first TV maker to hit the market with Internet content on the TV this summer. Toshiba is said to have a separate agreement to provide Yahoo content on its new connected sets later this year.