The hazy shape of things to come became crystal clear this week after years of speculative verbiage about the communications industry's Holy Grail: 'convergence', aka as the melding of TV with the internet.

Forget the cumbersome harnessing of so-called multimedia PCs to leisure activities such as watching TV or DVDs. The true path to convergence, it seems, is the other way round.

Japan's Sharp Corporation has come up with what suddenly seems blindingly obvious: TV sets with LCD flat screens sized up to 37 inches (94cm) with built-in internet access and a 500-gigabyte hard disk drive capable of recording high-definition programs, photographs and standard web content.

Users of Sharp's new Aquos range, which goes on sale in Japan later this month, will also be able to surf the internet via a hand-held remote control, enjoying hitherto undreamed-of picture quality. They will also be able to watch 'live' broadband video programming.

The TV tuner functions separately from the computer unit, enabling virtually instantaneous startup, although both components work in tandem when required.

In all there are four Aquos models at prices ranging from ¥550,000 ($4996; €3898; £2655) down to ¥350,000. In its domestic market Sharp expects to sell around 300,000 units by March 2007.

As yet, however, there is no information as to when the range will be available elsewhere in the world.

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