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TV aims for prime time in digital home

New standard uses Web-based protocols to let televisions control other devices in a home.

A new standard aims to let people control audio-visual devices through a TV screen, a development that could help keep televisions central to home entertainment.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) trade group on Monday said it is publishing a user interface standard that uses Web browser-based communications to provide access to and control of networked components--such as a personal computer or digital video recorder--through the main TV screen from a single remote control.

The technology, dubbed CEA-2027, is unlike most previous home networking standards, CEA said, because it supports full control of any networked device, including all of its unique functions defined by the device manufacturer.

A battle has emerged over which devices will serve as the cornerstones of future networked homes. PC makers have been pitching entertainment-oriented computers as living room-ready, while improved digital video recorders promise to let consumers manage digital content. CEA's new standard signals that high-definition televisions, which offer a more detailed picture when combined with high-definition programming, also are part of the mix.

"This standard will help ensure that TVs in the future continue to add value to consumers' viewing experience beyond simply displaying a picture and that TVs remain the intelligent point of control for home entertainment," Gary Shapiro, chief executive officer of CEA, said in a statement.

The new user interface standard is for FireWire (IEEE-1394) connections. There are plans to expand the standard to support Ethernet connections as well.

Some product manufacturers have been reluctant to add networking connectivity to their products because of concerns about losing their brand identity, said Bill Rose, chair of CEA's R7 Home Networking Standards Committee.

"This standard allows the look and feel of the overall (user interface), as well as the navigation between control screens, to be determined by the TV manufacturer," Rose said. "CEA-2027 also allows connected devices to present their manufacturer logo and retain their full set of controllable features as well."