Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, Toshiba and Hitachi are understood to be developing a joint Japanese standard for internet-connected televisions to address competition from the computer industry for broadband video services.

The Japanese consumer electronics companies aim to develop broadband-enabled televisions that can download and display videos from the internet without the need for a separate set-top box or computer.

They plan to establish a common standard for aspects of internet TV, based on a Linux operating system.

The five companies that compete in the television market have set up the TV Portal Service Corp as a joint company to develop a common standard for connecting to the internet. Sony and Matsushita are the lead shareholders in the consortium, each with a 35% stake, with the other companies holding 10% each.

The standard is expected to be ready by the spring of 2007, and products could be on sale later in the year.

The news was picked up by wire services and the Wall Street Journal, quoting a Sony spokeswoman.

The proposed standard is currently only intended for the Japanese market, but the alliance might prompt other companies to adopt it or develop alternatives. It could ultimately remove the need for special set-top boxes for IPTV or internet protocol television services.

The MHP or Multimedia Home Platform specification, the basis for the OCAP specification formally adopted by the American cable industry, was intended to provide just such a standard, but its adoption has been frustrated by wrangling over technology and licensing.