TV Turns on CES

Last week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas featured a smorgasbord of content-delivery deals that promise to give viewers the video content they want when they want it.

Internet portal Yahoo! unveiled plans for Yahoo! Go TV, a new service aimed at providing television viewers with the same search capabilities and flexible access to content that Yahoo! users enjoy on the Internet. In a speech Friday, CEO Terry Semel said users who download new Yahoo! software and link their PC to a TV can search and view Internet videos and digital photos on TV. Among other capabilities, they can also use their PC as a personal video recorder. Yahoo! says the service can be controlled through a simple television remote.

Yahoo! competitor and search giant Google was also expected to announce a new service that will allow PC users to download video clips through the Internet for a fee. Details on the service were still undisclosed at press time.

Several mobile media players on display were designed to compete with the iPod—and do it one better. Thomson's Lyra X3000 personal multimedia recorder, which weighs less than 8 ounces and is less than a half inch thick, stores files directly to the device. While iPod users first have to copy content to a computer, the Lyra X3000 can record directly from a DVR or other device. Later this year, DirecTV subscribers can transfer content from a DVR to the Lyra.

The ability to receive services like DirecTV, Sirius and XM Satellite was also a selling point for new devices. Pioneer and Samsung unveiled hand-held satellite-radio devices capable of recording up to 15 hours of songs on built-in 1-gigabyte hard drives. Samsung introduced a flip-top DirecTV receiver with an integrated 10.2-inch LCD screen. The $499 unit is designed to bring DirecTV to the kitchen or even the garage.

Giant screens had their chance to shine as well. Panasonic demonstrated a 103-inch plasma HDTV set (pricing was unavailable but don't be surprised if it hits six figures), and Samsung rolled out a 102-inch plasma screen.

Over-the-air broadcast of digital television was also on display. Thomson introduced a small receiver that plugs into the USB port of a laptop computer and lets the user watch (and record) over-the-air signals. And LG Electronics demonstrated a $50 digital-to-analog converter that will play a critical role in the digital transition. “If the government provides $40 vouchers for the boxes, the consumer can hand over the voucher and $10 and receive crisp digital signals on an analog set,” says John Taylor, LG Electronics VP, government relations.