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Foxtel to release its own portable video player

Foxtel is taking its content on the road, with the company today announcing plans to release its own brand of portable video player in the Australian market within 18 months.

Foxtel is taking its content on the road, with the company today announcing plans to release its own brand of portable video player in the Australian market within 18 months.

The device, dubbed Foxtel iQ To Go, will sync via USB with existing iQ boxes and allow subscribers to take any recorded content with them on their travels. While few concrete details were released today, a Foxtel spokeswoman says Foxtel iQ To Go units will have a similar form factor to that of small tablet PCs. The spokeswoman said the device was currently under development, with Foxtel aiming to have units out to market within 18 months.

Foxtel has also drawn a line in the sand with digital television, with the company committing to switching off all its analogue pay TV services by March 2007. At a press conference held in Sydney, Foxtel CEO Kim Williams and Austar CEO John Porter said the companies plan to convert all subscription TV homes to digital by 2007, exactly three years after the first delivery of digital pay TV in March 2004.

And in good news for those bemoaning the lack of HD content on pay TV, Foxtel and Austar have made a commitment to launch two 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week high definition channels by 2008. Foxtel says the additional bandwidth needed to transmit the HD channels will come from the Optus D2 Satellite and when MPEG 4 chips are incorporated into the next generation of Foxtel set top boxes.

"The subscription television industry has already invested more than AU$1 billion in world-class digital platforms that have been built for the future. HDTV in the future will become more important to broadcasters and to consumers," Porter said. "That is why subscription TV has committed today to delivering at least two genuine HDTV channels by 2008, with more to come over time."

More than 1.1 million homes currently subscribe to full interactive digital services with either Foxtel or Austar, with the other major provider of subscription television, Optus about to launch digital services to the general public from November.

As well as Foxtel iQ To Go, Williams and Porter said the companies were exploring further new technologies and content delivery mechanisms. Some innovations include increasing its content to 3G phones, undertaking a trial of Digital Video Broadcast Handheld for mobile devices, more interactive services including on-demand programming, and an updated EPG.