One of my standard comments about IPTV is that it will have to be at least as easy to use as regular broadcast, cable, or satellite TV. Five major HDTV manufacturers agree, and have announced plans to develop a standard user interface to get video content from the Internet. Sony, Matsushita (parent corporation of Panasonic), Sharp, Toshiba, and Hitachi have joined to create TV Portal Service. The key concept is that TVs following this standard will have a remote that will allow access to Internet video content by the touch of a button, instead of lots of keystrokes using a PC keyboard.

According to a report from Nihon Keizai, the standard will be based on the Linux operating system, and the first sets with the feature should appear in 2007.

All I can say is that this is a giant step in the right direction. IPTV is still very young, and it’s unlikely that this standard will survive as is for the long run, but it’s a great start. Serious computing power is already built into most HDTVs, and this just takes the next step to eliminate a separate PC. (The limited success of the Media Center PC indicates that people really aren’t warming up to the idea of a PC in their living room.) And the choice of Linux should help keep the costs down; many DVRs run on Linux. If this new standard can make it easy to connect an HDTV to a broadband Internet connection and then access video content as easily as you now can get content from traditional sources, it should see some real success.