Sharp puts Internet, sort of, on its TVs

An Ethernet jack on the TV will let Sharp customers get some Web sites on their TV for free. But will they go for it?

LAS VEGAS--Sharp is going to put select Internet content on some models of its TVs, the latest attempt by TV makers to cut out the PC.

The Aquos Net service, which kicks off later this month, will let viewers click a button on their remote and get Nasdaq stock quotes, local weather information, high-definition images, traffic information from Traffic.com and cartoons. NBC later will put information from some of its sites on the Aquos Net service.

Aquos Net in action Michael Kanellos

Other publishers will be added later. (Sharp has offered a similar service in Japan for a little over a year.).

The Internet content appears as a small square on the right side of the TV (see picture). It can be expanded to fill more of the screen. The service also comes with a connection to a portal, where Sharp technicians will help you with things like contrast and color.

Later, the company hopes to add full-motion video, Bob Scaglione, senior vice president of marketing at Sharp, said at a press conference here at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Users can not troll the Net and go wherever they want, he added. When they use Aquos Net, users are actually connecting to servers in New Jersey owned and controlled by Sharp, not to the publishers directly. Sharp's servers then push content down to your home.

The service is, initially, less encompassing and ambitious than a service launched last year by Sony which also featured video. But that was part of the plan, Scaglione said. Adding video capability adds more costs, he said. Sharp debated having video at the launch the service but decided not to go with video initially.

Sony's service also requires a piece of add-on hardware. Sharp's TVs will come with a built-in Ethernet plug. Once it's connected, you can get information. For those who don't have an Ethernet jack in the living room, Sharp will also sell you a box to connect the TV via power line networking. These start at $179. Users won't experience a degradation of quality with power line, Scaglione added.

Aquos Net adds about $200 to the retail price of a PC. The service, however, is free as long as you own the TV. Thus, if you own the TV for five years, the price of Aquos Net comes to around $3.33 a month. ($200 divided by 60 months). The price will also likely go down over time (especially when you consider that the silicon to enable this is nowhere near that price.)

Users need their own Internet connection to get the service. Sharp recommends a high-speed line.

So far, users in the U.S. have not gravitated to Internet on the TV. Most PC-TV combinations have failed. Nonetheless, if you are watching the Today Show in your underwear and want to get some local headlines, you might use it.

 

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