The partners in Project Canvas are inviting expressions of interest from consumer electronics manufacturers to develop devices for the launch of the proposed network-connected television platform in the United Kingdom in 2011. Manufacturers have been given just two weeks to respond to be selected as device partners for the proposed platform, for which the final specifications have yet to be published.

The initial focus is for a twin-tuner digital video recorder supporting digital terrestrial television and an internet protocol connection, although responses are also invited for set-top boxes and internet-enabled televisions.

It is expected that Canvas devices will be made available both through retail channels and bundled with broadband packages.

Project Canvas is seeking to identify manufacturers to work with the proposed joint venture as device partners. A total of 26 qualifying criteria have been established by which prospective partners will be selected. These cover experience, technical qualifications, resource commitment, product strategy fit, time to market, market reach, innovation, operations and logistics.

Further details are available on the YouView web site. The deadline for responses is 25 August 2010, giving manufacturers just two weeks to respond, at the height of the summer holiday period.

The requirements specifications have only been circulated in confidence to members of the Digital TV Group trade association and are not yet complete. It therefore seems likely that any selected suppliers will be among its 150 or so members, which include both major multinational manufacturers and smaller independent companies.

Given that the original stated aim of Project Canvas is “to create an open technical specification” one might expect that any manufacturer would be entitled to produce a compatible device, subject to any compliance testing and trade mark licensing arrangements.

In practice it appears that the proposed platform needs device partners with which to launch a proposition in the market and it seems that those selected will have an early advantage.

This may be an attractive opportunity for some manufacturers, particularly with the prospect of wholesale orders from broadband service providers, potentially BT and Talk Talk, although between them they have only managed to shift under half a million set-top boxes with their own respective services.

Given the uncertainty that still surrounds the prospects for the project, others may be more focussed on their own strategies. Broader opportunities may also emerge from the Connected TV project that the DTG is running in parallel with the proposals for Project Canvas, which has received criticism over lack of transparency and industry engagement.

“Canvas is stepping up its engagement with industry as we get closer to releasing the final set of technical documents to the DTG this month, and launching a consumer product next year,” said Project Canvas director, Richard Halton.

“Bringing on board further consumer equipment manufacturers will ensure people have the widest possible choice of devices and we remain focused on supporting the industry to stimulate a competitive market. We continue to work closely with the DTG to develop common standards for Connected TV”.

The support of the major manufacturers and consumer electronics companies will be critical if the proposed Project Canvas platform is to achieve any scale.