HP readying smart wireless TVs for 2006

HP readying smart wireless TVs for 2006

HP plans to release a television next year that has built-in WiFi and can access content stored on a PC.

Hewlett-Packard's (HP's) early efforts in developing digital entertainment devices will enter a new chapter next year when the company introduces a 37-inch television that will allow users to connect directly to their PCs or the Internet over a home network, according to an HP executive.

Around the middle of next year, HP will ship an LCD (liquid crystal display) television with more intelligence than the company's current lineup of digital televisions, said Steve Nigro, senior vice president and general manager in HP's Imaging and Printing Group. That television will have a digital media receiver built into the unit that will let viewers access their content stored on a home PC or download new content from Internet services.

Over the last few years, PC companies such as HP and Dell have plunged headlong into markets traditionally reserved for large consumer electronics companies, such as Sony, Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic), and Koninklijke Philips Electronics. Large-screen digital televisions have been one of the first places that PC companies have tried to compete with the consumer electronics world.

The connected home, in which movies, music and other media can be accessed on multiple screens around a house, is an evolving concept, to say the least. Aside from a small group of rich technology enthusiasts, most consumers have not started hooking up their digital televisions to their PCs and streaming downloaded content to a television over a home network.

However, sales of PCs with Microsof's Windows XP Media Center Edition are growing as home PC users discover what they can do with the new technology, said Tim Bajarin, president of analyst firm Creative Strategies in California.

Digital television vendors also have seen increases in sales over the past few years. As more home users hook up broadband Internet connections, and if the entertainment industry figures out how to deliver compelling content that still allows consumers to make copies of their property, more and more homes will start looking for ways to make their PCs the center of a home media network and sophisticated televisions will complete the experience, he said.

The forthcoming televisions will make setting up a home media network much easier for technical novices, Nigro said. The TVs are designed with 802.11a/802.11g wireless networking technology built into the unit, and contain software that let the televisions talk directly to a PC with the Windows Media Center operating system. These televisions will also have digital video recorders and the ability to browse the Internet, he said.

An HP-designed user interface will allow home users sitting in their living rooms to search and display content stored on their PCs on the new televisions, Nigro said. A similar-looking user interface will become a standard feature across all of HP's consumer electronics products, he said.

HP believes its advantage in the digital television market comes from its years of research into printing and imaging products, Nigro said. "We're about image quality. Our research in imaging and printing allows us to make contributions to the TV space," he said.

"HP has a unique perspective on this," Bajarin said. "Their position on this is it's just another way to print. You print to paper, you print to a television. The television is just another imaging component."

Pricing information for the new televisions has not been released, as many of the final details are being worked out, Nigro said.

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