CES: Sony Builds Internet Video Into HDTVs

Delivers streaming video, Yahoo widgets in one device

CES '09: Complete Coverage from Broadcasting & Cable

As expected, Sony Electronics has taken the integration of Internet video technology into its high-definition TV sets one step further at this year’s CES, unveiling high-end Bravia LCD sets that can hook up to a broadband connection and deliver Internet content seamlessly without requiring a separate device.

The new XBR 9 Bravia HD sets, which also include Sony’s version of the 240 Hertz motion-control technology that seems to be ubiquitous among marquee TV brands at this year’s show, will be available this spring.

“They set a new reference standard for picture quality while providing seamless access to Internet content,” said Sony Electronics president and COO Stan Glasgow at Sony’s Wednesday press event. “We’ve created a line of televisions that takes the medium from being passive to intuitive and interactive, where you can control what you want to watch when you want to watch it, no matter where it comes from.”

Sony first brought Internet video to its Bravia line two years ago with the Bravia Internet Video Link (BIVL), a $299 module that hooks to the TV through an HDMI connection and connects to a home router through an Ethernet port. Sony has since built up a line of 26 content partners for the BIVL device, including Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and YouTube, and used it this fall to stream the Sony Pictures movie “Hancock” four weeks ahead of its release on DVD and Blu-ray discs.

In another Internet video effort, Sony has also created an online movie store that can deliver movie downloads through its popular Playstation 3 game console. That has kept Sony competitive in the online movie space with movie-on-demand services from Microsoft’s Xbox game console as well as nascent Internet movie players like Vudu and Netflix, which are now delivering movies on-demand through broadband-enabled set-top boxes.

But late this fall, Glasgow hinted that Sony would join other manufacturers, such as Samsung and Sharp, in delivering Internet content directly through the TV. The new Bravia Internet Video service on the XBR 9 sets will also support “widgets” of personalized content that are displayed as on-screen graphics, such as weather information or stock quotes, using Yahoo’s rapidly proliferating “widget engine” technology.

A demonstration of the new XBR sets showed the ability to quickly find content on YouTube through an alphanumeric search function driven by the remote, with usability similar to a YouTube application launched by Vudu last month. According to Robert Jacobs, senior manager of business development for Sony, Sony’s goal is to for content companies to develop widgets that go beyond simple graphical information and instead trigger video playback with the single click of the remote, such as a YouTube widget.

“Widgets are controllable by a single button on the remote, so a content provider could be a widget,” explained Jacobs.