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Sharp Targets Home Network Users On 2 Tiers

MAHWAH, N.J. -Sharp intends to tap the home-network market at the mass-market and custom-installation levels, said Frank DeMartin, marketing director for display products.

The company recently joined Panja’s partner program, enabling plug-and-play integration of SharpVision LCD TVs, front projectors and plasma screens into Panja’s Phast home network system. Phast links entertainment, lighting, HVAC and other home subsystems for centralized control from one or more control panels.

In network technologies that will appeal to the do-it-yourself and retrofit markets, Sharp is considering wireless RF and no-new-wires power-line technologies under the “TV everywhere theme,” DeMartin said.

During CES, the company demonstrated a proprietary 2.4GHz wireless technology that delivered DVD video to a battery-powered 12-inch LCD TV. “There’s a good chance you’ll see something this year in RF [from Sharp],” said DeMartin. The technology requires a wireless sender and separate receivers to distribute a single video signal to multiple monitors throughout a house.

Network technologies such as wireless and a power-line technology demonstrated by Sharp at CES could be used in conjunction with DVD mega changers or PVRs to centrally store content and distribute it throughout a house, he added.

Although Sharp is a member of the HomePlug Powerline Association, the company demonstrated a power-line technology developed by start-up Power Line Networks of San Jose, Calif.

In about 60 days, Power Line Networks will begin shipments of its TV-PLA senders and receivers. The senders capture the RF output of a VCR (and a handful of similarly equipped DVD players), then transmit the signal in analog form to a receiver that connects to a TV’s composite input. For DVD players lacking RF outputs, users can connect an inexpensive RF modulator between the player and the sender.

Power Line Networks channel manager Keith Rabbin said the TV PLA will work with 80 percent of the outlets in a 2,000-3,000-square-foot home, delivering video quality “fairly indiscernible” from the source. Receivers won’t work when connected to GFI outlets.

A sender/receiver package will retail for a suggested $79.95, with additional receivers at $29.95. They can be used in conjunction with a $59.95 IR-to-RF remote-control sender to control a video source in another room.

The company is also developing a power-line LAN kit, targeted for midyear deliveries at a possible data rate of about 20MBps. A targeted price is $50 to $100 per node.