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Marriott to Offer HDTV, Plug-in Panels

Marriott International announced today thatit plans to roll out high-definition digital televisions and digital “plug-in panels” for guests’ digital devices. The high-tech amenities will appear in Marriott Hotels & Resorts, JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts, and Renaissance Hotels & Resorts throughout the U.S. and Canada. The company expects the rollout will be 25 percent complete and encompass 40,000 rooms by the end of 2007, with the rollout 100 percent complete by the end of 2009.

“Today’s hotel guests typically travel with many digital devices, not just a laptop, so providing more than high-speed Internet access and Wi-Fi is a must,” said Bob McCarthy, Marriott’s president for North American lodging operations and global brand management, in a release. “When we test marketed the HDTV and connectivity panel among guests, the response was overwhelming. This type of in-room technology was critical to them.”

The package is currently set to include a 32-inch HD-capable LCD television with a 25-watt stereo speaker system, but the guts of the new offering will be a connectivity panel which will enable users to plug their own digital devices into Marriott’s system to access their own media and digital devices. According to Marriott, the system will offer split-screen functionality so users can (say) watch television while checking email and accessing the Internet. Similarly, users might choose to play a video game while listening to music from their iPod over the in-room stereo. Marriott also plans to expand its television lineup from a base of 28 channels to as many as 64, including offerings like the NFL Channel, the Science Channel, Disney, HBO Kids, and the Cartoon Network.

Marriott’s San Francisco Moscone Center is already online with the new technology in all its guest rooms, and other high-profile hotels in New York, Washington D.C., Detroit, Phoenix, New Orleans, San Antonio, and other locations are slated to be among the first upgraded.

No word yet on whether the accessing the new services is rolled into the room bill or (as one might expect from Marriott) incurs a per-byte charge. But if you’re staying at a Marriott, odds are good you’re expensing it rather than paying out of your own pocket, right?