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Digital TV: An Easygoing (R)evolution


The implementation of digital TV was a singular chance to abolish all the different TV standards worldwide once and for all, and to form a new universal standard. While it is disappointing that this effort failed, it is not surprising, given closer examination of the different regional demands between USA and Europe, and the difficulties in the process of digital standard creation. The best remaining chance for a worldwide digital TV standard is with cable and satellite reception. But this not just a question of the best technology - political considerations are also involved.

TVs worldwide will become digital, even if the digital transformation takes many years until completion. The computer industry has also recognized the chances the transition offers, and is attempting to open a new market by finally adapting PC technology to the living room. For examples, see the Microsoft Media Center, Intel's Digital Home campaign, or the PC-based solution by Fujitsu Siemens. But the consumer electronics industry is not sleeping either, and will try to satisfy the demand with new devices, even adopting PC technology like hard drives and Ethernet into their products. New market players will try to make their way with new innovative designs, based on open source Linux operating systems.

Digital add-on services like Datacast or MHP sound very promising. However, such services will only become accepted if they add real value for the consumer for a reasonable price. This means that all information must be both sophisticated and up to date. The creation and maintenance of the offerings will cost money, which means either frees or support by advertising, as with the MHP demonstration of DaimlerChrysler.

Thinking about MHP and Datacast also results in the following realization: everything those services can offer could also be realized by a simple Internet connection and specially prepared websites for TV usage. This would be an even better solution, since the customer could not just receive data, but also send information. All you need for this is a PC-based unit in the living room and a connection to the TV, such as the device Fujitsu Siemens already offers with their Activity Media Center in Germany.

While this may be a new chance for the PC and Internet industries, it would not be in the best interests of the TV industry: a system based on Web technology would mean a loss of control and their exclusive revenues. Another problem of an Internet based system is security - problems that already plague PCs, like security holes, trojans, viruses, spam and hackers, could find their ways into the living room. And that is not exactly the typical consumer's vision of paradise.