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Panasonic Touts Web-enabled Viera Plasma HDTVs

3 Jun, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey

CENTURY CITY, Calif. — It's YouTube on your TV, but in a new way.

On June 3 Panasonic showed off its line of PZ850 Viera plasma HDTVs, the first to carry the company's Viera Cast feature, which provides instant access to several popular Web sites, including YouTube, Bloomberg and Google's Picasa Web Album.

“We want the TV to be the epicenter for the family,” said Victor Carlson, director of innovation for Panasonic's consumer marketing group. “In about five years we expect 60 million TVs in the world will have IP technology.”

Available to consumers later this month, the HDTVs will have an Ethernet port, be Wi-Fi enabled, and come in 46-, 50-, 58- and 65-inch sizes. One click on the remote brings viewers to several Web sites specifically configured to work on the plasmas, and Panasonic plans to add more after receiving feedback from owners of the new HDTVs. For now, Panasonic doesn't have plans to add a full Web browser to the sets.

“We really feel like we have some power brands with this initial launch,” Carlson said. “Consumer reaction has been excitement about pulling the Internet to your TV. Not the Internet, per se, but the Internet they enjoy.”

Demonstrations showed easy navigation through the HDTVs menus to the Web sites, and quick loading times for videos and other content. The HDTVs automatically update when new Web sites and content are available.

“ … Working with an industry leader like Panasonic will deliver the same terrific YouTube experience that users have come to expect from their computers,” said Steven Chen, co-founder and CTO of YouTube.

The PZ850 Viera line also includes an SD memory card slot and can handle high-def footage on SD memory cards, a first for Panasonic's HDTVs. The HDTVs have four HDMI slots, a PC input, a Pro Setting Menu for videophiles to adjust their screens, and a Game Mode, which minimizes lag time for displaying images from gaming systems.

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