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Gateway Converges on Video Patent

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
12/21/2006

File under: "Does Microsoft know about this?"

The PC maker Gateway Inc. has won a patent on software that displays and organizes Internet video and traditional TV video in a single channel guide for "Media Center" PCs.

Gateway media center PCs already allow people to receive PC/Internet content (think iTunes video) and TV content (think CNN) in one box. The problem is, users still have to toggle back and forth between "PC mode" and "TV mode," Gateway's patent says. (See Survey: Internet Video Content.)

The patent frames the problem like this: "A PBS station can be available on a TV channel and on a cable channel as well as on a PBS Internet Website. However, present systems cannot include these three PBS channels in a single channel list because present systems are unable to include both television channels and Internet channels in a single user interface." (See PCCW Picks ICTV.)

With both Internet and TV, cable, or satellite video managed from one interface, users can then organize lists of their favorite video content, according to the patent. (See Will Software Kill the IPTV Set-Top?)

The patent was granted on Dec. 19 to two Gateway engineers in Texas: Theodore Wugofski and Kim Smith.

Gateway wouldn't allow Light Reading to discuss the patent with the inventors and isn't saying much about how and when it will bring Wugofski's and Smith's work to market. "Unfortunately, for competitive reasons we won’t be able to provide any perspective on this patent at the present time," writes Gateway spokesman David Hallisey in an email to Light Reading Thursday.

But the patent itself says enough to give some idea. Gateway envisions the software as a helpful add-on to "convergence systems" like its Media Center PCs. "The system solves the problem of managing multiple channels from multiple sources," the patent reads. "Thus, the invention increases the usefulness of the convergence system." (See Will Telcos Want Their Dave.tv?)

Gateway began selling convergence systems back in 1996 with its Gateway Destination PC/TV system. That product featured a large high-quality monitor and PC-based hardware for receiving cable, digital, or satellite TV. Gateway later began selling similar systems with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) XP Media Center software on board. (See Inside Microsoft TV's Usability Lab.)

— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading

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