Hooked Up HDTV

Is your television connected to your home computer network? According to a new report from ABI Research, it’s a question of “when”, not “if”. Consumer electronics are becoming increasingly dependent on network connections for the distribution of images and sounds. And televisions are right in the path of this juggernaut.

According to ABI Research, about 3.6 million HDTVs will ship with network connections in 2008. LG, Sony, and HP all have products on the market already with such features. But in just five years, the number of televisions with network connections will soar to 65 million units in 2012.

Part of this movement is an attempt by manufacturers to differentiate their products in an increasingly competitive and crowded market. But I also see it as a strong response to the shifting tides in consumer electronics and content delivery. Instead of having shoeboxes of snapshots and shelves crammed with CDs (or cassettes or LPs), more and more families have hundreds of gigabytes of images and music stored on home computers. People are beginning to want easier ways to access this content, and burning mix CDs is not the answer. Instead, home networks let them access their content in different places. A television that makes this process easy will be in great demand.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Internet has already become a major means of distributing commercially produced content. I’ve bought a lot more music through downloads than on CDs in the past year, and I know that my experience is not much different than for millions of others. And as consumers become more comfortable with using the Internet this way — and televisions make it easier — we’ll be renting and buying more and more movies and other video content.

Adding network connections to televisions is not just a good idea, it will be a necessity in just a few short years.