Sharp planning range of Web appliances

A World Wide Web-based television guide and remote-control system to be launched later this week will be the foundation for a range of Internet-enabled consumer products that Sharp will begin announcing next month.

A World Wide Web-based television guide and remote-control system to be launched later this week will be the foundation for a range of Internet-enabled consumer products that Sharp will begin announcing next month, a Sharp official has disclosed. To kick off its push into Web applications, on July 22 Sharp will launch a free trial, in conjunction with Fujitsu, of a new Web service called InterTV.

Then, from the middle of August through early next year, the Osaka-based electronics maker will roll out devices that will include a Web television, a personal digital assistant (PDA) and "a wide array of consumer products that can connect to the Internet", says the official.

Though the official hasn't given details, an industry observer says the company is likely to leverage its experience in mobile devices gained from its popular Zaurus PDA, as well as its research in infrared data transfer.

The devices may also incorporate Sun's Java technology, says a source familiar with the company's plans. Though the deal has not been not made public, Sharp has licensed the Java technology from Sun, the source says. Sharp will either build its own chips based on Sun's picoJAVA technology or buy the chips from licensees Mitsubishi or NEC, the source says.

PicoJava is the core technology for a family of three processors launched by Sun in February. The processors are designed to support Java in intelligent devices such as cellular telephones and run Java applications and advanced three-dimensional applications.

Meanwhile, Sharp's InterTV will offer Japanese users a guide to TV programmes that can be customised and sorted by genre, time or location. InterTV will also provide information on actors and TV personalities and will provide links to related Web sites. Users will also be able to change the channel on their televisions by issuing commands through a notebook computer's infrared port. Sharp foresees users eventually operating the new Web/television service via their television, using a remote-control device or PDA, officials say.

Information on InterTV can be found at http://intertv.or.jp.

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