TAIWAN: Digital TV moves from the TV set to the notebook PC

Notebook computer owners may soon be able to watch digital television on their laptops

Taipei Times
Thursday, December 11, 2003

By Bill Heaney

Notebook computer owners may soon be able to watch digital television on their laptops, industry officials said yesterday at the launch of a new converter box that descrambles the signals.

"Technology is increasingly becoming bound up with our everyday lives," said Matthew Miao, chairman of the Mitac-Synnex Group, a contract manufacturer of computers and other information technology products.

"The smaller and more unobtrusive we can make it the better. Putting storage, computing, digital entertainment and broadband connectivity together is the way of the future."

SMALL PACKAGE

Miao was praising a cigarette pack-sized receiver box which plugs into the USB, or universal serial bus, socket of a notebook computer, allowing the user to access digital television channels that are beamed free of charge, or free-to-air.

Five free-to-air channels -- Taiwan Television Enterprise Ltd (TTV), China Television Co (CTC), Chinese Television System (CTS), Public Television Service (PTS), Formosa Television (FTV) -- are scheduled to switch to digital signals next year.

"The five wireless digital channels will have a soft launch next May and will launch officially in August," said Chen Yue-ching, secretary general of the Television Association of the ROC. "We would like to promote anytime, anywhere, free-to-air television."

The association hopes to boost the number of available channels to 15 as quickly as possible, she said.

The government plans to switch the nation completely to digital television by 2006, but is locked in a dispute about fees and regulations with cable operators who supply television to more than 80 percent of Taiwanese households.

Taiwan has to switch to digital before 2008 when the Olympic Games take place in rival China as the games will be broadcast completely in digital signals.

GLOBAL STANDARD

"China will be the second largest digital television market in the world," said People First Party (PFP) Legislator Pang Chien-kuo yesterday. "We need to create a truly global standard digital television system here before then."

The potential market for the device is huge, according to an employee at the manufacturers Twinhan Technology Co.

"I estimate that more than 50 percent of notebook users will be interested in this digital television function," said Jason Chang, director of Twinhan's product and marketing department.

Due to advances in technology, the box is expected to shrink to half its size by next year, and eventually be offered as a component inside the computer.

The box can also be plugged into the USB socket of a desktop computer, he added.

Twinhan is already manufacturing the box for companies in Germany, the UK, Australia and China. In these countries up to 22 free-to-air channels are already offered, Chang said.