Epson aims to turn TVs into printers

Ever get so jazzed by a commercial that you must immediately have information on the product? Epson says it has the answer.

Consumers will soon be able to to print product catalogs and magazines from their television sets, if Epson has its way.

Such convergence between televisions and printers is already happening. In Japan, for instance, Epson has a share in the Megaport digital broadcasting station, the company said at a recent press event in China.

The Megaport project, which also involves media organizations such as Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun and publisher Kadokawa Shoten, produces television programs that combine broadcasts with printable content such as maps and brochures. For example, a viewer could watch a television commercial for a furniture store, then print out the product catalog with the click of a button.

According to Seiichi Hirano, director and chief executive of Epson's imaging and information products division, there will be growing opportunities in this arena as digital broadcasting becomes more popular around the world.

The company sees television-based printing as a natural meeting point for its core business--imaging--and its emerging efforts in the market for large-screen televisions.

Earlier this year, Epson launched the Livingstation line of products, which are large-screen televisions with built-in printers. People can print almost instantly any image from a moving scene in a television program. They can also view, print and archive JPEG pictures from various memory formats, including Secure Digital, Memory Stick, CompactFlash and CDs.

Some Livingstation projection TVs are already available in the United States. A model with a 47-inch LCD screen is priced at $3,199, and one with a 57-inch screen costs $3,699.

Epson is also using its inkjet technology to create large-size organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays. The company announced a 40-inch OLED display in May.

According to market research company IDC, the growth of digital imaging represents an opportunity for consumer electronic vendors, PC manufacturers, home networking technology providers and camera manufacturers to capitalize on the digital convergence trend.

"The opportunities are intensifying worldwide, including the Asia-Pacific" region, said Claudio Checchia, research manager for the IDC division that focuses on consumer devices and services in the region. "However, demand for these PC-less print devices is lagging behind compared to the U.S."

Zen Lee of CNETAsia reported from Suzhou, China.