Whole Lotta Convergence Goin' On Page 2

One other piece of sneakernet news: Panasonic said some of its future plasma TV models could embed software for decoding high-definition video captured on its new SD-card camcorder. The slot in current models is used to show just photos.

Of course, lugging storage media around the house by hand seems terribly low-tech in an age when content is transferred from the Internet or over a home network with a click. So, at CES Sony announced the Bravia Internet Video Link and Microsoft unveiled IPTV on Xbox 360. Two days later, Steve Jobs unveiled Apple TV at Macworld.

Available this summer at a yet-to-be-announced price, the Bravia Internet Video Link is an optional module that attaches to the rear of most of Sony's new televisions to access free Internet video content, including high-definition from partners AOL, Yahoo, and Grouper, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Sony BMG Music. The book-shaped module connects to your home network through an Ethernet port (Wi-Fi is not built in) and includes a pass-through HDMI output to the TV.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates announced IPTV on Xbox 360. But the software's availability, expected this fall, is limited to customers of specific cable and telecom operators that have adopted Microsoft's IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) platform. For them, the Xbox becomes their all-in-one set-top box. But a larger audience can already take advantage of Windows Media Center Extender software built into every Xbox 360 for streaming multimedia content from a networked PC or the Internet.

Finally, in San Francisco, Apple chairman Steve Jobs introduced the company's long-rumored set-top receiver, Apple TV. Expected to ship in February for $299, the box streams movies and other media from a Mac or PC via high-speed Airport 802.11n Wi-Fi. It includes a 40-GB hard drive for storing content locally. Its best connections include HDMI or component-video to your TV and optical digital audio to your receiver.

During The Tonight Show on Jan. 11, host Jay Leno noted the downside of Apple's announcement. "They're coming out with a device that will allow you to download videos from the Internet right onto your TV. I don't know," he said. "For most Americans the only activity they get is moving their fat ass from the computer to their TV."

Convergence takes a heavy toll.

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