Smart TVs, or internet-connected TVs as they should really be called, were supposed to make watching your favourite programmes and movies better and simpler. Thanks to the wonder of internet streaming and apps, all of the TV catch-up services and online movie rental services would be available at the press of a remote button. No longer would we have to remember to set the timer on the PVR or wait for discs to arrive in the post or pay through the nose for Sky Movies. Everything would be available in one place. Except it hasn’t worked out that way.
It takes around 11 hours to fly from London to Las Vegas, the home of the massive, annual Consumer Electronics Show so we take a keen interest in anything to do with in-flight entertainment technology. We were surprised to discover that Japanese electronics giant Panasonic apparently holds a 72% share of the market for the entertainment systems built into airline seats.
Panasonic fits the screens and the related backend technologies into the back of plane seats in close collaboration with both the specific airline as well as the seat manufacturer and the plane manufacturer (typically either Boeing or Airbus). Panasonic both retrofits older planes and equips new ones during construction. Panasonic's brand doesn't appear anyway on any of the technology or onscreen, which is reserved for the airline's marketing use.
Read more: CES 2013 news
Panasonic demonstrated the 11, 12 and 18in high definition displays it fits into the cabins of Air New Zealand planes. Although small, the displays were a far cry from the fuzzy, non-widescreen displays often used in older plane entertainment systems. In business class, the displays are mounted on retractable, adjustable stands also designed by Panasonic to the airline's specifications.
We were also surprised to discover that Panasonic also manufactures on-board Wifi equipment. Panasonic uses a terrestrial-based internet service beamed from the ground to the plane via radio waves, thus limiting the service to the continental United States. Deploying a similar ground-based internet service elsewhere in the world can be tricky, as transmitters would need to be deployed in the countries flown over on each route – this can be a complex web of logistical, legal and regulatory requirements depending on the route and countries in question.
Despite this, Panasonic is still pushing for the deployment of Wifi in planes even when internet service isn't available. The wireless technology can still be used to serve entertainment content to passenger's own computing devices, but hopefully not new episodes of the X-Factor.
Lots of Computeractive readers have asked us about taking courses in computing so in November we published an article on how to choose a computer course. Prior to publication we asked the members of our Facebook page if they had taken courses and, if so, whether they found them useful.
Since then Paul Thomas has been in touch to share his experience. "Starting out as a complete novice at computing three years ago at the age of 63, I enrolled on a flexible learning course at college. My first introduction to computing was a course called ‘Skills for Life', which covered the basics: email, finding information on the internet and word processing using Word 2003.
"From there I carried on to a Computer Literacy and Information Technology course and then European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) Extra and ECDL Advanced. I learnt to use Powerpoint, Word and Excel 2007. The training books were provided and there were no fixed classes as such. You booked a computer for two hours and you were in a room with 40 or so computers.
Our buyer's guide on smart TV in November prompted lots of responses, with many noting that they'd taken a DIY approach. It's hardly surprising as many people will have spent a considerable sum on HD television sets in the past few years, and will be understandably reluctant to fork out more for what is essentially a gamble that manufacturers will continue to improve the apps available.
Alex Hainey outlined his approach to souping up a £300 Hitachi 42in TV. "I bought a Lenovo laptop with 4GB of memory and a 360GB hard disk for £270. I also got a cooling fan base for it to sit on and an HDMI cable. I then spent £100 on a 2.1 Harman Kardon Soundstick. These all combine to give a system that can play DVDs, YouTube videos, internet radio stations, Sky, Freeview, display websites and more.
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