By Jon Fortt
July 16, 2007

Two in three consumers want a TV that connects to the Internet, new research from research firm iSuppli finds.

Conveniently, more and more services are inching toward exactly that; in a recent meeting, Sony (SNE) executives told me about plans to make limited Internet services available on Sony TV sets in the very near future. Separately, Hewlett Packard (HPQ) continues to tweak its own technology for bringing PC-like functions to its line of high-definition televisions.

According to iSuppli’s projections, shipments of network-equipped devices, along with consumer PCs and home network bridges and gateways will rise to 732.9 million units by 2011, more than triple the 225.3 million that were shipped last year.

Among iSuppli’s other findings:

  • Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) and multi-room DVR demand is driving cable, satellite and telecom operators to consider a variety of new high-speed home networking technologies, ranging from coax (Moca, HPNA, Hana), to power line, to Wi-Fi (802.11n).
  • Makers of televisions and other consumer electronics devices are incorporating Internet Protocol (IP)-based connectivity to enable access to both user-created content and to new Internet-based media portals.
  • Emerging regions, including India and South America, will experience only a slight expansion of home networking usage, despite having strong broadband growth. When deployed, home networking in this region will primarily be used to link notebook PCs to broadband gateways.

Consumer acceptance of the TV as part of the digital entertainment environment is driving a host of new living room products and services. Apple’s (AAPL) Apple TV aims at that market, as do Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows Media Center and Xbox 360.

I’m inclined to think it will take the technology players a long time to the Internet/TV blend right. All of the interfaces I’ve seen are too complicated to work well – it’s not intuitive at all to access photos, surf the Web, or do any other PC-like function on these newfangled TVs. (Some of the better interfaces, like Apple TV, don’t grab much content directly from the Internet.)

Probably, what we’ll need is new types of remote controls to help us quickly and easily discover Internet-based content through the TV set. But until we happen upon the right combination, it’s nice to know consumers are interested in surfing the Net while they’re channel surfing.

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