TV Manufacturers Make It Easier To Surf The Web Morning Edition technology expert Mario Armstrong talks to Renee Montagne about the merging of television with the Internet. They discuss what it will take to make the Internet the primary way to watch movies and TV.
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TV Manufacturers Make It Easier To Surf The Web

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TV Manufacturers Make It Easier To Surf The Web

TV Manufacturers Make It Easier To Surf The Web

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Here in the U.S., people are thinking about buying for the holidays. As always, televisions are one of the big purchases of the season. This year, several manufacturers introduced flat-screen TVs that are Internet enabled, meaning you can stream programs directly from the Internet to your television. No added boxes or wires. We called our technology interpreter, Mario Armstrong, to find out more. Mario, nice to talk to you again.

MARIO ARMSTRONG: Hi, Renee, thanks for having me in.

MONTAGNE: First of all, can you just do that smallest little explanation of how this would work since there are people out there already plugging their Internet into their television.

ARMSTRONG: There are some people that are doing that. But that's a smaller group of folks. So these are people that are already kind of early adopters. But a majority of folks aren't doing that. So this is new in that televisions are now coming with the connectivity options that make it easier to connect to the Internet.

MONTAGNE: And you don't necessarily need a computer sitting right there?

ARMSTRONG: Great point. That's right, and you won't need a computer. That's the whole idea. Really, really, Renee, what they want to do is they want to get to the point where you can take the existing television remote that we've grown accustomed to, know how to use and be able to surf the Internet, as well as watch television programming but not need to use a keyboard or a mouse or connect a computer to the television set.

MONTAGNE: So movie studios and TV networks are scrambling to position themselves for that very day. Do these Internet-enabled TVs say we're there?

ARMSTRONG: They don't say we're there. They say we're oh so close, that's what they say. But content is what's going to drive that experience. Studios, content providers, they're all waiting to kind of see how this is going to play out. I mean, you can look at the recent case of when Sony made its animated hit �Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.� They made that available to consumers directly through Internet-enabled televisions before the movie is released on DVD. So they are trying to figure out if these experiments are new revenue streams that they may not have had to deal with in the past.

MONTAGNE: Well, let's get a reality check. You, Mario, went to a Wal-Mart to see what people are buying. Did you find them snapping up these Internet-connected TVs.

ARMSTRONG: No, I did not. And, you know, it's interesting. I went to Wal-Mart, as well as Best Buy, and the first thing that I noticed in both stores was that there was a lack of even promotions or advertising about televisions that are Internet connected. So right off the bat, they're not even featuring these TVs in a big way that that's going to drive sales, which really kind of threw me off, because I thought that that was an additional feature that people would like to know about. But I think that also indicates that the consumers just aren't there yet.

MONTAGNE: Well, we called up James McQuivey. He's an analyst at Forrester Research to hear how long he thinks it will be before basically we all go out and buy Internet TVs. Let's take a listen.

Mr. JAMES MCQUIVEY (Analyst, Forrester Research): First of all, the TV makers and the retailers have yet to understand what it is about connectivity that consumers will respond to. So they're taking their time, only adding a little bit of content here and there. So until they see very clearly that there's a value to providing people Internet connectivity, they're going to take their time.

ARMSTRONG: You know, he's exactly right. I mean, I believe that we've seen experiments of these different relationships that are happening with content providers as well as these television providers, but we haven't quite figured it all out yet. But I think it boils down to three quick things. Number one, usability. People need to be able to use an existing remote and be able to navigate through the Internet on a television.

Number two, the prices need to come down and be a little bit less expensive. And then number three, it needs to be very easy for people to connect these televisions to their home networks. I think we might see an uptick in these types of TVs when we see more televisions that offer embedded WiFi as opposed to connecting an actual cable to the television set.

MONTAGNE: While you were out there looking at what other people were shopping for, Mario, I do gather that you bought a TV recently.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: What did you bring home?

ARMSTRONG: I did not end up with an Internet-connected TV and I'll tell you why. Right now, the price is too high. All of the content providing hasn't been figured out yet. So I still would like to see what partnerships are going to evolve or how this is going to work. And quite honestly, Renee, it's so much easier and cheaper for me to take my existing computer and with one little cord connect that to the back of my television and with a wireless keyboard and mouse, sitting on my bed, I can surf the Internet right on my TV at a much less cost.

So that's what I ended up doing. I did end up buying a nice television that I'm happy with, but I did not end up with an Internet-connected television.

MONTAGNE: Mario, pleasure to talk to you again.

ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Mario Armstrong is MORNING EDITION's technology commentator and also host of the DIGITAL SPIN on member station WEAA.

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