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TV's Web Transition: A Wish List

Today's column may sound a little whiny, since I spend most of those 22 column inches complaining about what I saw at Macworld Expo and the Consumer Electronics Show last week. I only allude to how I'd like to see TVs connect to the Web's video sources.

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So let me spell that out here. First, I think that any "real" Web-connected TV (or other video source in a home-theater stack, such as a DVD or Blu-ray player or digital video recorder) has to offer access to multiple video sources: the major networks' sites, Hulu.com, Amazon video-on-demand and Netflix's Watch Instantly service. I'd like to see the iTunes Store represented there too, but we know that Apple's not going to open that up to anybody else anytime soon.

Furthermore, I want to be able to copy a downloaded movie purchase to a USB flash drive or memory card, then pop that drive or card into the corresponding slot on my TV -- just as I could with a homemade movie or a music download that hasn't been locked up with "digital rights management" software.

The Apple TV could come very close -- Boxee's free software expands its repertoire beyond YouTube clips and iTunes movies and TV shows to include such additional sites as CBS, Hulu, Netflix and Comedy Central. But on the Apple TV, Boxee is an unauthorized hack that could be broken by a future software update. Will Apple squelch this project or take a hint or two from it?

Yahoo's TV Widget system, which allows outside developers to write their own widgets to bring additional sites onto the TV, has a lot of potential, precisely because it doesn't require that all the right ideas come from a single enterprise. But we'll have to see if the company delivers, and if other coders take it up on this offer.

Before CES, I saw demonstrations of other projects aiming to bring Web video to the TV -- DivX's DivX Connected, software that can be embedded in TVs and video players and recorders to connect to video sites, and Dish Network subsidiary Sling Media's SlingCatcher box, which can play Internet video "projected" from a PC with Sling's software.

So the industry doesn't lack for ideas, effort or competition. Somebody just needs to put the pieces together in the right order -- and at a reasonable price. I welcome your predictions in the comments about who will get that done first.

Meanwhile, I also have a Web chat scheduled for 2 p.m. today to wrap up my CES coverage. If you have any questions about what I covered at the show, set aside some time then or throw in your query ahead of time.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  January 15, 2009; 12:40 PM ET
Categories:  CES 2009 , Macworld 2009 , TV , The Web , Video  
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Comments

I noticed that the Roku player is moving in the direction you suggest. They sent an email yesterday announcing support for Amazon video on demand and stated that, in addition to Netfix and Amazon, they wil be adding other sources soon.

Posted by: Arlington4 | January 15, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Livestation is a neat little app that lets you stream a lot of live tv to your pc. I have a spare computer hooked up to my flatscreen via DVI port and I run Livestation there to get tv from other parts of the world.

Posted by: idiparker | January 15, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

2 words

Mac Mini

Posted by: foxn | January 15, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Your thoughts are what I have been thinking. Modern video consoles need to handle all these inputs, and should include old and new European and other signal standards as well. Similar conversion outputs should be available also.

I'm afraid of what happened to boomboxes being done to various new electronica: I think the boombox peaked in about '90. I saw one for sale that had a small equilizer, the various Dolby settings of the time, the CD and cassette players, a microphone input (!), a headphones jack, and a cable connection (!) for cable radio. Sweet.

As far as I know, most of these features soon vanished from the market.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 18, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

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