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Sony Ties TVs To The Net

Sony Electronics said its new line of Internet-ready televisions has been designed to receive Internet video content from providers including AOL and Yahoo.

Sony today announced a device to bring free Internet video content to televisions. The news comes as other companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and Sling Media are rolling out devices with similar capabilities.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas today, Sony Electronics said its new line of Internet-ready televisions has been designed to receive Internet video content from providers including AOL, Grouper (recently acquired by Sony), Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony BMG Music, and Yahoo.

To watch Internet video on TV, owners of compatible Sony televisions -- initially Sony's Bravia S-series flat-panel LCD high-definition models -- will have to purchase the Bravia Internet Video Link module. The module connects and streams video from the owner's broadband modem over an Ethernet connection to the TV, without requiring a PC.

"We're shifting content experience from a lean-forward PC exercise to the comfort of the big screen TV in your living room," said Randy Waynick, senior VP of the Home Products Division at Sony Electronics, in a statement. "Internet video will clearly be the next step in the evolution of high-definition television, giving users more control over the content they view."

Pricing and availability of the module haven't been announced but are expected "within a few months."

Sony had better hurry because there's already fierce competition to build a bridge from the Internet to the TV -- in addition to Apple's soon-to-be released iTV media hub and Microsoft's Carbon (IPTV on the Xbox), Sling Media today announced SlingCatcher, a device to make Web and PC content viewable on TVs, either inside or outside the home.

SlingCatcher poses a serious challenge to Sony and Microsoft (and perhaps to Apple, depending on the details announced by Steve Jobs at Tuesday's Macworld Conference keynote) in that it offers unrestricted access to Internet content. Sony, on the other hand, is offering content from only a few partners, a situation that's similar to what Microsoft has planned for IPTV on its Xbox.

Tomorrow will tell whether Apple will end up offering a similarly restrictive system by tying its iTV device too much to iTunes video content.

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