TOKYO: A joint venture between the Japanese government and the nation's TV manufacturers, will in February launch a portal website, acTVila, a concocted word that when pronounced sounds like the Japanese for "opening door".

The move is an attempt to combat the 'convergence' steamroller currently touted with aggressive vigor by Microsoft and other US software and electronic giants. To the winner of this Godzilla versus King Kong contest will accrue the spoils from a single global technological standard for TV-internet convergence.

acTVila will also provide Japanese viewers with a streaming video-on-demand service, purchasable via credit card. This too is scheduled to go live next year.

But to access the service consumers must first invest in a broadband connection and internet-compatible digital TV - hence the enthusiasm of such corporate titans as Matsushita, Sony, Sharp, Toshiba and Hitachi - all of which are backing the scheme.

The power quintet is already marketing web-compatible TV receivers, and some operate their own portals such as Matsushita's T-navi. The Japanese market, however, is currently minute due to low brand recognition and lack of viewer content.

However, the manufacturers now plan to step-up production and marketing of models that enable viewers to browse the web via an easy-to-operate remote control device.

Meantime, acTVila's parent, TV Portal Service, plans to publish and promote convergence technical specifications to attract both indigenous and non-Japanese TV manufacturers and service providers.

The gauntlet has been picked up!

Data sourced from Asahi Shimbun Online; additional content by WARC staff