The Future of Television has Arrived: CES Internet TV Roundup

As we covered extensively last year, most major TV manufacturers were planning to launch internet enabled television in 2009; the future is here.

Here’s a round up of what’s been released at CES. The biggest question last year was how open the platforms would be; or more precisely how closed they would be. Details included where available.

Sharp

Along with new screen technology, Sharp Internet enabled televisions will have access to the “Sharp Aquos Network portal” that will included widgets from includes a Navteq traffic report map. The Aquos Network doesn’t include web video yet, but there’s a reason: the new line of TV’s includes built in Bluray players.

Internet TV score: FAIL.

Toshiba

The new internet enabled televisions from Toshiba pack a punch: the cell processor best known for being the power behind the PlayStation 3. Primarily the chip will deliver ultra-high definition viewing, but it also opens the TV up to a number of other features. According to specs, as well as offering DVR functionality built in, the televisions will support the Intel/ Yahoo Widgets platform. The platform isn’t as open as say a web browser, but does allow developers to build on it, and when first launched last year included promised on video on demand. The down size is costs, with the new sets to be offered in the $5-10,000 price range. Toshiba though is going to offer a box to attach to existing sets, price isn’t known.

Internet TV score: Nice, but costly.

Panasonic

Panasonic was the first major manufacturer to launch an internet enabled television, although one model only in 2008. The lineup for 2009 expands three series – The Z1 series, the V10 series and the G10 series. Panasonic offers its own internet platform under the VEIRACAST brand. Content includes YouTube, Picasa Web Albums, Bloomberg and weather service; an newly announced HD movie rental via Amazon Video-on-Demand. Nice line up, but similar to the Apple TV, and sadly closed to general browsing

Internet TV score: a reasonable start well priced.

LG

LG was the mystery playing coming in to CES. There was some rumors of that they’d play, and I’d speculated they would as well, although earlier announcements said they were more focused on internet enabling Bluray players. LG made the announcement of an internet enabled TV Jan 5 (details here). The sets will offer the Intel/ Yahoo Widget engine and content from YouTube and Netflix. Still a closed system, but appealing.

Internet TV score: win, but wish it wasn’t closed

Windows Media Extender

Add to the list Samsung and Toshiba’s pledge to support for Windows Media Extender, although it’s not clear if this will be available immediately. This will open up both to extra content, although a little fussy.

Conclusion

It’s a nice start to the beginning of the internet television era. The problem with all the sets so far though is that they remain closed; users can’t for example go to Hulu or a similar service for shows, and this will limit their appeal. However eventually having these features as standard means that they’ll be purchased anyway, and that’s where the space is headed. The only issue now is getting people to buy televisions at all given the economic crisis. The roll out will be slow, but it will happen.