LAS VEGAS Internet TV, which virtually every TV manufacturer in the world tried outonly to fail miserablyin the mid-90's, is out of rehab and back this year at the Consumer Electronics Show.
Leading the Internet TV charge this time around is Sony Corp., with a new product called Internet Video Link HD, designed for attachment exclusively to the back of Sony's own new Bravia flat panel TV sets. The Internet Video Link unit, when hooked up with either a cable modem or DSL broadband connection at home, will feed Internet video content into a TV without using a personal computer, by scaling selected content up to HD.
In forging partnerships with AOL, Yahoo and Grouper Networks, Sony's Internet Video Link product, scheduled for market introduction later this year, will show on Sony's new Bravia TV a variety of Internet video already available on AOL and Yahoo, in addition to user-generated content filtered by Grouper Networks.
Noting that Internet is reshaping the world, Stan Glasgow, president and chief operating officer at Sony Electronics Inc., claimed that his company's Internet Video Link will "expand entertainment content" for Sony's Bravia TV platform.
Asked how Internet Video Link differs from the previous generation of so-called Internet TV, Philip Abram, vice president of television product marketing at Sony's home products division, said, "Web TV brought Web surfing to TV." In contrast, the new Internet Video Link brings video content now available on the Internet as an additional TV channel. "Some people like the chaos of the Internet world," said Abram. "But this will bring order to it."
Because Sony's Internet Video Link is still a prototype, Glasgow declined to detail the building blocks inside. The device, however, is believed to feature RSS technology, HD video up-conversion capabilities and audio/video decoding functions.
But if the basic nature of Internet is to be defined as a free, open, democratic content jungle, isn't Sony's Internet Video Link essentially a walled garden that goes against the grain?
Josh Felser, co-founder and co-president of Grouper Networks, conceded: "True." But through the partnership with Sony, Grouper will "edit" and filter user-generated content posted at Grouper's website, "plucking" the ones the company thinks "right" for viewing on Bravia.
Felser added, "The free, open and democratic Internet world still exists." People can still come to Grouper for posting and viewing any content on a PC. But for the so-called "lean-back" TV experience, Internet video content should be made easier for watching, he said.
Kevin Conroy, executive vice president from AOL, said at Sony's press conference that his company partnered with Sony in hopes of bringing their own high-quality video content "to platforms beyond PC."
AOL, Yahoo and Grouper are the first companies to join the Sony "family" bringing Internet video content to Bravia. The deal, however, is not exclusive to the three companies. "We expect to see others join us," said Sony's Abram.
Watch video from Sony's CES press conference: