On-screen TV guides are the next big thing - and could be even bigger than Microsoft Windows, according to industry watchers.
Heading the field is the Gemstar International Group, which recently acquired US TV Guide, which publishes a TV listings guide. Gemstar has already had one hit - Video Plus, which lets you programme your video via numbers found in the TV listings. The codes are printed in more than 1800 publications around the world.
To solve the problem of wading through hundreds of digital channels, Gemstar has come up with an interactive guide which lets consumers check out programmes several days in advance, and to search via category such as sport, films or documentaries.
Once a programme is highlighted, it is recorded automatically, or if you're in, the guide will turn the TV on at the appropriate time.
Gemstar is looking at getting the guide installed on TVs and set-top boxes globally.
Gemstar's system is already being sold by Thomson and Sharp. The company has also licensed its technology to Microsoft and AOL, which are developing services for guides that will combine the internet and TV.
Although Gemstar will make money from licensing deals, industry watchers believe that advertising on the interactive program guide with a gateway into e-commerce will be the real moneyspinner.
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