$400 HDTV Just Around the Corner?

Watching TV on your computer is not a new idea. In fact, companies have been bringing regular DTV to the desktop for over a year now (see previous story). But HDTV is another matter—the high-definition specification for digital television has been struggling to get out of the chute ever since its launch in November 1998. Several factors have slowed the emergence of HDTV, with the high prices of HDTV sets a deciding factor in most cases.

However, price may no longer be an obstacle for those willing to watch television on their computers: Last week, Pinnacle Systems announced the introduction of what it calls "PC-HDTV." Pinnacle claims that, by combining its technology with those from TeraLogic and Philips Semiconductor, PC-HDTV turns ordinary personal computers into high-definition televisions. Pinnacle states that "PC-HDTV lets viewers watch, record, and play back an HDTV program at full-resolution high-definition on a PC monitor, at a fraction of the cost of standalone HD television sets." In addition, the company says that PC-HDTV allows broadcasters to datacast very-high-bandwidth digital content directly into the consumer's home.

According to Pinnacle's Bill Loesch, "with over 120 stations in more than 40 markets broadcasting HDTV, PC-HDTV is the perfect product for technology enthusiasts who want to experience the theater-quality audio and video of HDTV in their home. PC-HDTV is capable of receiving all 18 HD standards allowed by the FCC, as well as standard-definition TV. In addition, PC-HDTV even outputs standard NTSC so that conventional TV sets in the home can display HDTV programming."

Philips' Giri Venkat adds that, "with PC-HDTV, reception in urban and outlying areas will be greatly improved. By incorporating Philips' second-generation ATSC demodulation chipset, PC-HDTV will allow more people to experience the clarity and quality of HDTV, even in areas where tall buildings or hills cause reflections of the signal." Raghu Rao of TeraLogic adds that "Our Janus HD decoder enables cost-effective implementation of true HDTV reception on a single PCI add-in card. PC-HDTV is able to decode and display all formats without any quality degradation when downsampling the image resolution."

Pinnacle says that PC-HDTV is scheduled to ship in the second quarter of 2000. The product will be available through computer retail outlets, superstores, and mail-order and Internet retailers in the US and Canada, with an estimated suggested retail price of $399. Pinnacle's Jim Dunn adds, "PC-HDTV is an option for low-cost early-technology adopters who want to experience HDTV but without spending thousands of dollars. They can get everything from enhanced TV to high-definition TV on their PC for a few hundred dollars."