January 3, 2006 4:00 AM PST
Tech tunes into TV at CES
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It's not all good news on the hardware side, either. Living-room PCs like Viiv have failed in the past, so computer manufacturers are putting only limited energy into Intel's concept this time around, sources said. Consumer electronics makers are expected to counter PC-based entertainment delivery with smarter set-top boxes, and TVs that can serve as digital hubs.
Even networking standards for home entertainment are in play. Airgo Networks and Wi-Fi companies say 802.11n, a wireless technology specification, will become the transmission protocol of choice for moving around movies in the home.
Companies behind power-line networking disagree, and have customer adoption to prove it. Earlier this year, Spain's Telefonica kicked off a video-on-demand service and is getting 2,000 new subscribers a day. Many of the customers are opting for power-line networking, which uses broadband delivered via a house's internal electrical wiring, said Jorge Blasco, CEO of powerline modem provider Design of Systems on Silicon.
"There is no competing technology that is capable of passing video. We've sold a half-million chips," Blasco said. "The carriers are going to be the big drivers of video-on-demand in 2006."
Several more companies--Verizon Communications, France Telecom, BellSouth--are currently testing power-line modems, he added. Blasco's company plans to show off prototypes of PCs and set-top boxes rigged with power-line modems at the CES event.
Other things to watch out for at the show, which runs Thursday through Sunday:
The dominance of Asia. Two years ago, Gateway, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and other PC sellers laid grand plans to roll out TVs and MP3 players and erode the traditional consumer electronics dominance of companies like Samsung, Sony and LG.
Fast forward to now: Samsung, LG and the other Asian conglomerates still occupy the most floor space at CES and hold strong positions in most markets. American computer makers still sell consumer electronics, but their entry into the market didn't ignite a revolution in brands or customer loyalty.
"They've been moving slow, waiting for convergence," NPD Techworld's Baker said. "But look at iPod and TiVo. Those are very much American products."
The TV with the built-in DVR. In 2006, a number of manufacturers plan to release television sets that include built-in digital video recorders with 100GB-plus hard drives. Plasma TV remains alive, but there will be far more models with LCD screens.
Toshiba and Canon are expected to show off the first surface-conduction electron emitter display, or SED, televisions. These TVs, like prototypes from Samsung and Applied Nanotech, use nanotubes and other particles to convey electrons to the screen. That results in a set that is similar in size and shape to an LCD model, but has a better picture.
Blu-ray versus HD DVD. The organizations behind the rival next-generation DVD technologies will hold press conferences to detail the release of players and movies for their respective formats in 2006. Many studios and technology companies back Blu-ray, but HD DVD fans say their format will be easier to adopt. Some companies, such as HP, will support both.
MP3 players. There will be a lot of them. Most will use flash memory, and more of them will play video in addition to audio files.
A lot of discussion about Apple. The company will show off products the following week at Macworld in San Francisco, but that won't prevent people from talking about it. The Yonah chips from Intel are set to be unveiled Jan. 6, and Apple is expected to incorporate the processor in its first Intel-based Macs.
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