HP is pursuing direct content rights for its MediaSmart platform, which provides Internet connectivity for the television. The MediaSmart platform is a LCD television that acts as an access point on a home network, providing access to both home network stored content, and content delivered directly from the Internet. There is no need for an additional set top box. Connectivity is provided through an Ethernet port on the television. The MediaSmart platform is currently offered on a 37 inch LCD television. HP reports that the MediaSmart line will expand later this year to include 42- and 47-inch models and 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity.
This product is an early indicator of the future of television. The idea of Internet connected TV’s is interesting, but not really the core issue of this development. As Multichannel News reports, the real interesting issue is HP’s pursuit of direct content rights for the MediaSmart platform. They have already secured rights for the CinemaNow library of films and features, and they are pursuing others. HP intends to have “… a pretty extensive library of content,” for the platform, says Alex Thatcher, senior product marketing manager for HP’s Digital TV Solutions group. This development illustrates the growing trend of consumer electronics manufacturers joining the ‘living room’ battle for eyeballs now being waged by cable MSOs, telcoTV providers, and the growing number of Internet options available to consumers. Apple intends to be a major player in this competitive battle, using AppleTV as their major weapon. Television manufacturers may have an interesting advantage. Should they decide to insert a ‘start-up’ menu that supersedes any other view when a television is turned on, they may be in a position to influence consumer’s viewing decisions first. If they have their own negotiated content options and partnerships, will they steer consumers towards more self serving options? Could we see future accusations against HP or Toshiba or Sony that are analogous to past accusations that were made against Microsoft and their purported unfair advantage on PCs with MS Windows? Or maybe the future will offer Comcast or FiOS branded televisions/media centers, in much the same way wireless firms brand mobile wireless devices. We may be witnessing the start of the fight over the ‘TV operating system’, and who controls what consumers view upon turning on the television.