The much-anticipated merging of PCs and televisions is soon to take a big step forward.
Compaq Computer, one of the largest computer makers in the world, is soon to release a new
series of electronic devices that are designed for computer tasks but also possess video
and TV capabilities. The new classes of consumer electronics products are being developed
to play video that is delivered via a broadband Internet connection.
One of the most appealing aspects of the new devices is the content that could conceivably
become available because of an arrangement Compaq computer has with Disney. Their
technology alliance could allow the devices to playback old and new titles from Disney's
large media library as their agreement already calls for the distribution of Disney
Interactive content on Compaq computers and consumer electronic devices.
Another possibility for content is the Movies.com site, which is a Disney owned site.
Earlier this year, Disney suggested they were going to offer some type of "Video on
Demand" system although there has been no official information regarding when it will
occur or the type of content that will ultimately be offered.
Compaq isn't the only company planning on releasing new products that merge TV with PCs.
According to a wide range of news sources, Hewlett-Packard is releasing a combination
DVD/CD player and recorder and Gateway has been working with Broadcom to design their own
Video on Demand system. AOL Time Warner is also planning a similar Video on Demand system
that is already in a beta testing stage.
Although each of the companies have their own vision for their respective products, many
of them will apparently follow products like TiVo, and will offer features for digitally
recording satellite or cable television to a hard disk drive.
One of the most interesting aspects of the new technology will be how it affects the movie
industry. The music industry has a whole generally failed to embrace compressed music
such as MP3 and has been very slow to react to a changing marketplace. They are now
basically left in a position where they challenge the legalities of most of the popular
Internet exchanging software and sites like Napster and MP3.com. It appears that the movie
industry is taking many more precautions and is planning to partner with the computer
companies to offer consumers a wide range of services.
It's not surprising that computer companies are looking for revenue streams outside of
their normal markets. The industry is seeing a large slowdown in PC sales especially in
the US. Although it would be highly unlikely that the companies are planning to end their
production of PCs, most of them understand they need to target the consumer electronics
market, which they hope will provide a greater profit margin than the increasingly lower
margins currently available to them.
While previous attempts to merge the PC and the television have been unsuccessful, PC
makers like Compaq are hopeful that their earlier failures will not be recreated. Along
with Gateway, Compaq attempted to merge the technologies several years ago by combining
PCs with very large monitors. The combinations did not do well in the marketplace and
production was soon dropped. They are hoping things will be very different this time