BERLIN, Germany While High-definition technology for TV sets and storage devices is ubiquitous on all billboards around the IFA fairground, the industry proved to be reluctant in announcing real products - at least for day one before the official show opening. But on press events in the run-up of the event, networking of consumer electronics devices abounded as another important trend for the next years.
"All content will be accessible from any device in the user's home", promises Microprocessor manufacturer Advanced Micro Devices to those who use its Live! connectivity approach. AMD, who in contrast to rival Intel has a large booth on the fair, spreads it's gospel among consumer electronics vendors and PC vendors alike. "Thus, users can bring not only IPTV content from the server to the TV set or to the PC in the den, but also regular internet content to the living room", explained Jochen Polster, CEO of AMD Germany. "With all content being digital, it won't be important which terminal device will be used for displaying the data".
Live! is an enabling technology, it is independent of the transport medium, Polster explained. Thus, products are feasible that connect devices via powerline data transmission, Ethernet, or wireless networks. "In Europe, we think powerline will prevail, since the way the homes are built differs from the light constructions in other parts of the world", Polster said.
According to Polster, AMD cooperates with a broad range of set top box designers to implement the Live! middleware on their respective products. "The STB vendors like it, since it works independently of their conditional access schemes", Polster reported.
The idea of a networked home multimedia landscape is also the centerpiece of a Fujitsu Siemens Computer (FSC) announcement. "Follow me TV" means that a user can move the content outlet on-the-fly from one room of the home to another one. While FSC also supports AMD's Live! concept, the technical basis in of the feature in this case is Universal Plug-and-Play (UPnP), a technology originally developed by Microsoft but now under the custody of the UPnP forum. In addition, FSC developed a software that enables the distribution of DVB-S digital TV content via an UPnP network and sold it recently to Microsoft; a FSC spokesperson said it will probably be integrated in future versions of Microsoft's Media Center system software.
Also German high-end TV manufacturer Loewe seems to have discovered the value of networked multimedia landscapes. On a press event where the company introduced several HDTV receivers, Loewe CTO Gerhard Schaas announced to implement networking abilities into future products. "The devices increasingly are embedded into a media landscape instead of acting as stand-alone devices", Schaas said. While the present device generation is already equipped with USB2.0 and HDMI interfaces, the company plans to implement self organizing networks of digital home devices. As transport media, standard LAN technologies including wireless LANs will prevail, and the middleware layer will be based on UPnP. "We won't reinvent the wheel", Schaas said. But for the higher software layers, Loewe is presently working with Fraunhofer Institut to develop intelligent functions.
And the bulk memory devices for HDTV content that are so ubiquitous on Berlin walls presently? Well, after all, Loewe had a HDTV receiver with integrated fixed-disk recorder in its luggage, but no optical disk drive. FSC shows a notebook computer with a built-in HD-DVD recorder, but, because of the ongoing DRM specs discussion, it cannot record protected material. And on a presentation of the Blu-ray Disk Association, a spokesperson stopped short of announcing hardware. "We leave this to the many companies that will introduce it in the next days", he said.