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Brier Dudley's Blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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January 9, 2007 4:24 PM

Apple TV, version 2.0

Posted by Brier Dudley

LAS VEGAS -- The next edition of the new Apple TV product may use ultra wideband radio technology instead of the proprietary 802.11n wireless system used in the device introduced today.

Tzero Technologies, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based UWB chip maker, has been talking to Apple about using its modules, its senior director of marketing, Matthew Keowen told me at CES today.

Keowen said the technology used in Apple TV lacks the capabilities of WiMedia, but Apple's entry into the market is great for the business.

"I think Apple is going to create a huge amount of interest in wireless video,'' he said. "I think they have an incredibly elegant solution."

But it doesn't distribute full 1080p high-definition.

Tzero's chips support a new standard known as WiMedia that's fast enough to transmit 1080p wirelessly at speeds up to 480 Mbps.

It calls its solution "Wireless for HDMI," referring to the all-in-one HDMI cables increasingly used to connect high-end TVs to receivers and DVD players.

In its booth, Tzero was showing several upcoming devices that stream 1080p content, including a pair of receiver/transmitters from Asus that will sell for about $300 sometime before June. The devices are each about the size of a small cable modem or wireless router, and transmit video signals from any source -- including a computer, set-top box or receiver -- to a TV display.

All these gadgets seem to be interim steps, though, until TV makers start putting these sort of modules directly into their sets. You shouldn't have to buy all these $300 gadgets to make everything work smoothly.

One Chinese television manufacturer, Hisense, announced at the show that it will add use the Tzero modules,but the company is still trying to get top manufacturers such as Sony to use them.

"We are trying to embed our module inside the TV," said Jihyo Chung, an engineer from the company's Korea office.

Keowen estimates that WiMedia devices like the Asus set will be broadly available later this year and televisions with built-in high-def streaming capability will start appearing around the holidays. He expects they'll be widely available in 2008.

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.