By guest writer Ross Flynn
High-definition television is the future. Companies are spending millions converting studios, investing in new equipment and marketing to let consumers know that this is the case - HD is where it's at.

It's Television evolving, rather than the revolution we saw when digital TV was introduced back in 1998 in the UK with the launch of Sky digital. This is because of what the EU decided was a good idea for the introduction of TV in the whole of Europe, not just the UK. There were two options that presented themselves when digital was first looked at: quantity; the route chosen, or quality; high-definition pictures that Japan and America have been enjoying for some years.

This is where the problems lie, HDTVs have been flying off shelves in America and Japan for years now In America there are tens of channels offering high-definition programming around the clock and covering many different audiences. And while all of this has been happening in the US and Japan, we've been stuck with standard definition TVs, with the compression of channels being increased so that more can be squeezed onto the available space. Only now is the UK starting to get its foot in the door when it comes to HDTV.

Sky have announced that they plan to launch their high-definition service sometime in the first half of 2006 - aptly calling the service 'Sky HD'. The announced set-top box offers an ethernet port for connection to broadband networks, as well as USB ports, a hard drive, and component (as well as HDMI) connections, so that those that brought a Plasma or LCD TV a few years ago can still enjoy the service.

All of this is also coupled with standard connections for use with a second TV; SCART is an example that is included. However, the announced range of channels so far leaves a lot to be desired; Sky have announced that subscribers can enjoy high-definition versions of Sky Sports, Sky Movies, Sky One, Artsworld, National Geographic, Discovery Channel and Sky Box Office, the latter allowing viewers to enjoy the choice of 'up to ten HD movies a week'. Wow.

One problem that can easily be identified with High Definition in this country is the lack of televisions available that will be able to support broadcasts in the next few years. Plasma and LCD TVs have been available for some years, but these have nearly always been targeted towards viewers who wish to just watch standard definition programmes. Indeed, it would be fair to say that the vast majority of the sets sold in the last few years have even lacked a component input; the most basic connection required to experience a high definition picture.

The manufacturers aren't to blame, though. Only recently has the TV and film industry decided to agree on the HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) socket as being the future of high definition. Yet more confusion is soon to reign, though, as rumours have been flying around on a revised HDMI socket standard.

A big push from consumers for newer HDTVs will soon present itself, however, as Sony and Microsoft look to launch their next generation games consoles. Both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 will offer high definition outputs so that they can be used on HDTVs, to allow for a much sharper picture. Microsoft have so far chosen to only include a component cable option for the Xbox 360, while Sony have promised to support the HDMI standard in the PS3.

Nintendo have chosen to keep their cards close to their chest, while Microsoft have signed a deal with Samsung which sees Samsung supplying LCD TVs for the Xbox 360 demo pods seen in stores and at trade shows. This has proven to be a major coup for Samsung, as literally thousands of eager Xbox 360 gamers have chosen to buy a Samsung TV in the hope of getting the best picture possible on their Xbox 360. "If it's good enough for Microsoft, it's good enough for me", seems to be the trend, many often forgetting the massive amounts of money that must have went one way or another...

High definition television is coming. We'll see it in the UK from next year in a number of different guises - Microsoft will have their HD-ready Xbox 360 available, Sky will have their HD service available for subscribers, even if it is stupidly expensive to begin with, and NTL have said that they won't just sit on the fence for 2006.

It's a very exciting time for anyone interested in consumer electronics, as we see a decade old standard finally make it into the UK, and big-time. One way or another, high definition will find it into your home in the years to come, and you can bet that it'll be sooner rather than later.