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Panasonic, Google mashup

Posted by: Kenji Hall on January 8, 2008

Ever since Sony launched an Internet video-to-TV service for its Bravia flat-panel sets last August, the one question on everyone’s lips: When will someone tie up with (Google-owned) YouTube?

The wait is over. On Jan. 8, Matsushita Electric Industrial, known for its Panasonic brand, said its soon-to-be-released Internet-connected flat plasma TVs will let users browse, find and watch YouTube videos. They’ll also be able to check out photos in Google’s Picasa online photo service “with virtual one-click access.” The service is expected to go live once the TVs are launched in the U.S. this spring.

The announcement was just in time for Panasonic execs to do a victory dance at the big CES show in Las Vegas. (Incidentally, Matsushita also unveiled a digital camera that connects wirelessly at T-mobile Wi-Fi hotspots in the U.S. and uploads photos to Picasa.) Panasonic will face plenty of competition here, not only from Sony. Microsoft, HP, Apple, Netgear, Tivo and Sling Media all have their own ideas about how to get Net content to your living room set. And the networks, NBC and News Corp.’s Fox, have a service called Hulu that aims to do the same.

For now, this is a niche product. Can you picture mom flipping through old Lonelygirl 15 episodes or hunting for TV ads from her youth? Not really. I have my doubts about whether watching YouTube on the set-formerly-known-as-the-boob-tube will be a mainstream activity any time soon. Still on the fence about whether to give this the thumbs-up or down? I’m in favor of this for one reason: choice-—more of it for consumers.

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