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Sony and Matsushita, along with Sharp, Toshiba and Hitachi have set up a joint venture company called TV Portal Service, which will establish an infrastructure and protocols that will allow easy access to Internet delivered TV and data services. These services will be available directly through a new generation of internet-ready TVs. Keyboards and mice need not apply. Viewers will be able to hop from broadcast TV to internet content at the push of a button (so they say).
The new sets will utilize a Linux rather than Microsoft Operating System because of the need for fast-booting in order to give a seamless TV-like experience for users. The first of this new breed of smart TV could appear as early as next Spring. Sony and Matsushita are the lead shareholders, each with a 35 percent stake. The other companies have 10 percent shares.
This new joint standard from otherwise rival companies is an attempt to fight off growing competition from the computer industry. The standard is intended to simplify the process used by content makers to produce material for viewing on televisions that also link to the Web. By banding together, these Japanese giants may be able to generate a bigger market than would be possible if each pursued its own individual system. The explosion of Internet content, including movies, news, home videos, etc., is causing especially younger users to spend more time in front of the computer and less in front of the TV.
At the same time, computer companies such as Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. have been threatening with their own standards and products in the works designed to bring Internet content to TV sets. “There has always been this question of whether computers were going to become like televisions, or televisions were going to become more like computers,” said Yoshifumi Imbe, an analyst at Yano Research Institute. One this is for sure, the Internet is a powerful force if it can so easily threaten the once almighty TV.