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HP positions TV as digital hub

Company demonstrates new television tech that will let users directly access digital entertainment content stored on their PCs.

Hewlett-Packard is shifting some of the power in the digital home from the PC to the television.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based computer and printer maker on Friday demonstrated a new technology for its high-definition televisions that will let consumers directly access digital entertainment content stored on their PCs. HP has been slowly building up its television inventory to compete with the likes of Sony, Samsung and Dell.

HP will begin shipping the technology in some of its 32-inch and 37-inch LCD screens in mid-2006, said Alex Thatcher, a product manager for HP's digital-television division.

The prototype is based around a built-in digital media receiver that communicates with a primary PC. The devices communicate through wired or 802.11a and 802.11g wireless networks.

"The idea is to give you easy couch access to your digital media," Thatcher said. "The software and the receiver turn the TV into a universal media center server."

Since the technology is based around the universal plug-and-play (UPnP), Thatcher said the new displays could also interact with networked attached storage, digital cameras and even some phones.

HP is demonstrating the technology at the Custom Electronics Design and Installation Association trade show in Indianapolis this week.

The company said it's focusing more on high-definition television technology to meet customers' desire to access all of their digital content through a single source: the television.

"More than 50 percent of American consumers are storing digital video or music on their hard drives, and 25 percent of U.S. households rate the ability to view digital photos on a large-screen display as extremely important," said Tim Bajarin, president of analyst firm Creative Strategies."

HP is expected to announce its first music and video service partners tied to the new televisions around the time of the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2006. Several other partners are expected to be announced later that summer.

HP said it is also shipping 10 new products, including digital light processing (DLP)-based micro-displays as large as 65-inches, plasma and LCD TVs as well as its high-definition digital entertainment PCs, which HP said it expects to sell during the holiday buying season.

The displays take advantage of HP's new color sub-pixel processing and wobulation technology, which manipulates the projected image in a carefully controlled way that HP says dramatically improves the image quality.