Panasonic readies "smart" TV, tablet thrust

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Panasonic Corp aims to beef up its Internet-TV service this spring, expanding its offering of applications to compete with rivals like the alliance between Sony Corp and Google Inc.

Panasonic also unveiled a series of tablet devices under development, which will go on sale within the year in an increasingly crowded market.

The enhanced cloud-based TV service, dubbed Viera Connect, and 15 new wide-screen TVs on which it can be used, will likely be launched in early 2011, starting in the United States, the company said in a news release.

Panasonic expects Internet-enabled TVs to make up 70 percent of its global television sales in the financial year starting April 2012.

Viera Connect will offer live sports broadcasts, TV shows via Hulu, and social networking applications such as Facebook, as well as interactive applications for gaming and fitness, the company said.

Panasonic will also offer on-line shopping for hardware products and applications from third-party developers.

The company said it was working with applications developers including Accedo Broadband AB, Wiztivi and Tata Elxsi and would make the Viera Connect middleware technology available to other TV, set-top box and device manufacturers.

Reporting by Isabel Reynolds; editing by John Wallace and Tim Dobbyn