A small news item this week, unnoticed by most major media, could have huge repercussions for the future of television, and the long anticipated Internet-TV connection. It's coming not from cable-TV, or telco-delivered IPTV, nor from a small startup like Akimbo or web-rooted video services like YouTube or Real. It's coming from a consortium of Japan's biggest consumer electronics manufacturers -- Sony, Matsushita, Toshiba, Sharp and Hitachi.
They've agreed to make a new portal, called acTVila, to be the gateway for the built-in broadband browsing and video streaming capabilities of HDTV sets. (See Japanese TV makers create networked TV portal.) Because of HD's higher resolution and digital processing, building browsing and broadband video streaming into the TV makes a lot more sense now than it did ten years ago, at the dawn of WebTV.
Some of the companies have tried their own proprietary portals, but these haven't taken off with consumers. The plan now is for the manufacturers to band together and offer streaming and video on demand services through the jointly owned portal -- essentially competing with cable-TV, satellite-TV, and broadcasting. The consortium has the blessing of the Japanese government, which sees it as a way to keep lower-cost Asian manufacturers from taking over their domestic television market, and keep U.S. based PC and chip companies from dominating TV over the Internet.
Available only in Japan initially, beginning this February, the plan is to then roll it out to the world. This could ultimately be one of the biggest developments in the distribution of TV signals ever.