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TV convergence: It's happening in Japan

Watching TV on your PC is quite common in Japan. A huge number of desktops and notebooks come with TV tuners--and people actually use them.

CHIBA, Japan--Remember convergence? The idea that the TV and conventional technologies would merge? It came out about the same time as that series ER and has aged about as well in North America.

A TV phone in action. Michael Kanellos/CNET

In Japan, it's another story. Watching TV on your PC is actually quite common. A huge number of desktops and notebooks come with TV tuners and people actually use them, according to several residents.

"There are a lot of ads for TV PCs," he said Yasutoshi Magara, managing director of Microsoft Japan. Sharp Electronics, he noted, just came out with a PC-TV combo with a 42-inch screen.

Part of the surge here relies on local factors. There isn't a lot of spare space in most cities in Japan. As I type, the chair I sit upon is butting up against a suitcase on the floor, for instance. Combining the TV and the PC screen into one slim package makes sense.

TV on cell phones has also become big. Japan started offering 1Seg, a service that lets you get free digital TV channels on your phone, in April 2006, according to Sharp's Myuki Nakayama. Ten million TV phones from all manufacturers have been bought by consumers since then, she added.