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Compaq, Thomson to make PC-TV hybrids

Compaq joins forces with television giant Thomson to create a PC-TV.

Compaq Computer and RCA parent Thomson Consumer Electronics are joining forces to merge the personal computer and the television in a device that combines the ease of use of consumer electronics with the interactivity of personal computers.

The two companies make powerful allies, both in terms of expertise and brand-name recognition in the U.S. consumer market. Compaq is the world's largest PC manufacturer and one of the largest suppliers of home PCs, and Thomson subsidiaries sell televisions and other consumer electronics products under both the RCA and GE brand names.

"The new convergence category is the future of both of our businesses," said Joseph Clayton, Thomson's executive vice president of marketing and sales, Americas & Asia.

The companies say they are working together to develop a combination PC-TV, as well other home computer products that will accelerate the convergence of the household devices. Although delivery and feature details of the hybrid PC-TVs were not released, officials said they expect to have something on the market in the first half of next year.

A Compaq spokesperson did point out, however, that one of Thomson's strengths is an expertise in Digital Satellite System (DSS) technology that would allow a user to download video and audio directly from a satellite using MPEG-2 technology.

Compaq has been pushing the convergence theme for some time. The company is planning to incorporate several technologies in its upcoming consumer PCs that will help link them to other home electronics devices, including a new standard called 1394 that lets users connect products such as camcorders and VCRs to their computers for viewing and editing.

Compaq is also developing a Simply Interactive PC (SIPC) that will use 1394 technology and be designed more like an appliance than a traditional computer with a "sealed-case," a complete unit that needs no add-on cards to make external devices such as VCRs work. The SIPC, already seen as a "concept design," will work with a large-screen monitor or TV and digital audio built around the Dolby Pro Logic Surround Sound system.

The announcement of the alliance came four days after 17 companies announced plans to manufacture Network Computers, Internet-access devices priced at $500 or less that adhere to specifications developed by Oracle and that can connect to PC monitors or televisions.

While the Compaq-Thomson products would potentially compete with the Network Computers due to hit the market this year, Thomson officials believe that the market is waiting for a product with high brand-name recognition in the computer or television market.

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