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Vendors see TV in Net dreams

IBM, Compaq, Silicon Graphics, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard are jumping into the market for digital broadcasting for both TV and the Internet.

    IBM (IBM), Silicon Graphics (SGI), Compaq (CPQ), Intel (INTC), and Hewlett-Packard (HWP) are jumping into the market for digital broadcasting technologies for both TV and the Internet.

    All of these companies are attempting to gain a toehold in a potentially huge market by leveraging their computer expertise as TV goes digital and the Internet and intranets become a more widely used broadcasting medium.

    Also, companies such as Intel are desperately seeking new markets for high-performance computing technology they plan to deliver in the future.

    IBM and SGI are targeting TV networks while Compaq and Intel are focused on the Internet.

    IBM hopes to deliver the "backbone" technology for content delivery in the digital television era with the announcement of its LogiCast package of hardware and software. The company says LogiCast will let broadcasters implement digital broadcasting of video and data for TVs or PCs.

    Digital broadcasting allows a station to transmit up to ten programs on the "bandwidth" used by one program transmitted using older analog technology.

    For viewers, the result is the availability of new services such as video on demand and "impulse" pay-per-view programming, regardless of whether they have new high-definition TV sets. In the future, IBM will offer broadcasters the ability to deliver interactive educational programming, advertising, news, and Web pages using the LogiCast system.

    LogiCast includes products such as IBM's video server, storage, and networking products, as well as customer management software. MPEG-2 hardware, and set-top box receivers. Overall, IBM has combined products from over 40 other companies to give broadcasters the ability to go digital.

    IBM announced it will get its digital video broadcast set-top boxes from TV/COM International, a subsidiary of Hyundai Electronics America. The boxes receive the digitally compressed video, audio, and data signals transmitted by IBM's system.

    Silicon Graphics, already a force in special effects and graphics production, announced a new audio technology for use in the production of broadcast-quality material. SGI says that the technology will help film, video, and interactive content producers synchronize audio with video more quickly than was possible with dedicated audio processing systems.

    The company says that the need to synchronize and process from 100 to 300 tracks of audio--commonly used in movie soundtracks--requires more computing horsepower than ever. SGI will offer professional digital audio boards for its Onyx2 and Octane workstations starting at $1,000, and will support the technology in its Origin servers. The servers will be able to store sound effects, audio clips and other media in databases for reuse.

    Compaq, together with VDOnet, is targeting broadcasting on the Internet and intranets. Internet service providers and companies using Compaq servers will be able to broadcast high-quality video over the Internet or intranets efficiently, regardless of the speed of a viewer's connection, according to the two companies.

    "[The technology] helps assure ISPs, content developers, and corporations that they are selecting the right combination of Compaq server platforms and VDOLive software for broadcasting video of the highest quality over networks," said Marty Falaro, VDOnet's president and CEO.

    Using VDOLive's "scalable" technology, training videos can be broadcast from a server. Company employees view them at near-television quality over corporate intranets, while employees without access to their company network can view the same training video over the Internet using a dial-up modem.

    Underscoring the trend toward digital broadcasting among manufacturers, Intel senior vice president Ron Whittier proclaimed today that "it is no longer a matter of if the PC is the future of broadcasting, but when" in his keynote address at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention in Las Vegas.

    Intel claims the PC will be the utlimate end-user device of the future for receiving and manipulating digitally broadcast data, though TVs with set-top boxes may provide a less expensive alternative.

    Intel and MTV unveiled new digital programming dubbed Intercast Jam. Debuting this week on MTV and M2, Intercast Jam uses Intel's Intercast technology, bringing interactive web content and TV broadcasts together on the PC.

    MTV vice president Matt Farber demonstrated the new programming at the NAB convention, which lets viewers see Web pages about the music video they're watching. Starting on April 11, MTV will broadcast Intercast content for two prime time hours daily, while M2 will deliver Intercast programming 24 hours a day.

    HP says that broadcast company Space TV Systems will use HP's MediaStream Broadcast servers to provide global satellite service featuring Chinese programming.

    By using HP's server, Space TV can easily insert programming for regional markets from their broadcast center in Taipei, Taiwan. Space TV will provide eight video channels and ten audio channels to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Australia, and eventually North America.