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HP readies TVs, media hub products

Hewlett-Packard executive promises "very cool" media hardware--with Hollywood-friendly copyright protection built in.

ASPEN, Colo.--Hewlett-Packard plans to announce by next week a set of home entertainment products, including large-screen TVs and a digital storage console, embedded with copy protection technology.

Shane Robison, HP's chief strategy and technology officer, said at a conference here that the announcement, which will be made in about 10 days, is designed to curb copyright infringement though an unspecified form of digital rights management (DRM) technology.

Robison said that while he couldn't divulge details, the products also would include "very cool" interfaces to personal computers, wireless links and a media hub. His comments on Sunday evening came at a conference organized by the Progress & Freedom Foundation.

HP's news likely represents the next evolutionary step in its consumer product lineup. Last August, in an event dubbed "Big Bang 2," the company announced 158 new products and a simpler way to make computers, printers, digital cameras and other gear work together. HP has been hinting at plans to enter the TV market since late last year.

In addition to an expected update of its traditional consumer products, such as printers and cameras, the company is also expected to introduce an HP-branded version of Apple's iPod in September. The device will be based on Apple's fourth-generation iPod, which debuted in July.

In a speech in January at the Consumer Electronics Show, HP Chief Executive Carly Fiorina outlined HP's plan for more content protection as well as for the LCD televisions and an HP-branded iPod. Fiorina also outlined a technology called LightScribe that HP will add to its CD and DVD burners, allowing the drives to etch labels onto the surface of optical discs.

Robison said the planned announcement reflects HP's commitment to stronger ties with movie studios, which tend to be strong proponents of DRM technology. He appeared on stage with Darcy Antonellis, a vice president for antipiracy operations at Warner Bros. Entertainment, and touted the two companies' close working relationship. In April, HP announced a deal with Warner Bros. Studios to supply rendering power to restore old movies.

Antonellis said Warner Bros. and other studios "can't sustain growth and development without their intellectual property being protected throughout the entire value chain." Warner Bros. movies include "Exorcist: The Beginning," "Catwoman," "Harry Potter," and the "Matrix" trilogy.

Until the last year or so, Hollywood and Silicon Valley were at loggerheads over how to deal with DRM and piracy, but now, the two industries are finding common ground, Robison said. Previously, the line was, "I want absolute 100 percent guarantees that everything is protected, or I won't do business with you," he said, "but we're in the middle ground now."

One point of disagreement arose over whether new laws were necessary to address peer-to-peer piracy. HP's Robison sounded a note of caution, while Antonellis said her industry "has to be aligned with and supported by legislative activities. We can't get there alone."

CNET's Ina Fried contributed to this report