It's All Built In

Moving way from matters of AV quality to more utilitarian stuff your TVs will do in 2009, we kick off with the small matter of Internet connectivity.

Samsung has already delivered a limited version of this with some of its current LCD range (from the 7000 range upwards). But the whole concept is going to expand exponentially from this spring when Samsung launches the first TVs with built-in Yahoo Widget Engine capability.

What's so handy about the Widget Engine is the way it makes it easy for TVs to interact with Internet content and services, including Javascript and XML applications. So the latest Samsung Internet TVs will support such stuff as Flickr, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Weather, Yahoo! Finance, YouTube, eBay and Showtime. Even video streaming is being promised following a future firmware update.

It's important to note that all of this technology will only be accessible from dedicated Samsung-established servers; the TVs won't be unfettered web browsers like a normal PC. But it's a heck of a step forward from the mere news and weather offering of Samsung's first online TVs.

Samsung has exclusive dibs on the Yahoo Widget Engine until around September, at which point a slew of other brands will doubtless leap aboard the whole online TV story.

It's not just Internet connectivity that will be built into TVs with greater regularity in 2009, either. I'd also expect to see more TVs shipping with built-in HDD PVRs, for recording Freeview programmes without the need for an external set top box. LG is certainly continuing to offer such sets, as is JVC - and provided they sell nicely, others will doubtless follow.

Continuing the built in theme, Sharp unveiled the first TVs with built-in Blu-ray players at CES, and these look set to arrive in the UK towards the end of the year. I'm not entirely confident that they'll really start a trend, it has to be said; certainly TVs with built-in DVD players didn't really catch on outside the small, second-room market. But if this feature sounds like just what you need then Sharp at least will be on hand to see you right.

Yet another built-in development - the last one, I promise! - concerns Freesat tuners. Panasonic's period of exclusivity when it comes to putting these into TVs has come to an end, so there's no doubt others will start to offer Freesat TVs too. The only surprise, in fact, is that the only brand to already officially nail its colours to the Freesat mast is LG, which has Freesat TVs appearing from April.

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