In these weeks leading up to the Holidays and then CES, I am being inundated by PR flacks to come visit with them at CES. Why? It seems to get worse every year as there are more gadgets and gizmos that are trying to see the light of day than ever before. However, my beat is Digital TV, HDTV, next-generation blue laser DVD, cutting-edge set-top box designs and the like. Am I really interested in a new Dick Tracy watch/cell phone? Well, maybe if it offers MPEG4 video compression and can download video files from either DirecTV or EchoStar, and store my favorite TV shows using TiVoToGo. Or, not.
Believe it or not, I am looking forward to CES. First, of all, let me say that I'm not looking forward to the endless press conferences on Press Day (Jan. 4, 2005) with little or no real information. I'm not looking forward to the press wantabees/freeloaders either that take up every seat at the briefings and eat every piece of shrimp at the various press conferences. It's truly a 'never-ending story.' Press Day is like going to the dentist. It's just something that you have to get through before you can see or hear something really good or revolutionary or both. Instead of 'dueling banjos,' we will have dueling press conferences between the HD DVD folks and the Blu-ray disc group (maybe they should get the Blue Man Group as their spokespeople -- Hmm.) or DirecTV vs. EchoStar. I'm sure that a good time will be had by all.
What I am really looking forward to is seeing working samples of next-generation blue laser products. I expect that both Blu-ray and HD DVD will be showing off the merits of both systems on the show floor. I do have a question for the Blu-ray group. What were they thinking in Choosing Charlie's Angels - Full Throttle as the first movie to be pressed on a blu-ray disc? I'm puzzled because Sony Pictures/Columbia/TriStar has several 'key' titles in their extensive library. And, now they also own the MGM library as well with several thousand titles including James Bond. Do you mean to tell me that they couldn't come up with any better than Charlie's Angels? OK. Who doesn't like Cameron Diaz or Lucy Liu, but come on. What happened to the Spiderman, or even the Zorro franchises? I just don't get it. Talk about a lackluster start.
I'm also looking to forward to seeing a real demo of SED. Reportedly, both Canon and Toshiba will be on the show floor with working samples of this striking display technology, which is scheduled to be launched next Fall (2006). What I've seen so far makes this technology very compelling and seemingly superior to both LCD and plasma. It just has to get itself launched. Although, I have to say that I am also looking forward to seeing several 1080p HDTV plasma displays from companies like Hitachi, Panasonic, Pioneer, and Samsung. It just shows that they're not resting on their laurels eithers.
We can also expect to hear more about MPEG4 compression, and how it's going to affect satellite users across the country. What you may or not know is that both satellite companies -- DirecTV and EchoStar -- will be moving towards MPEG4 in 2006. This affects ALL subscribers who receive HD signals from these providers. DirecTV has already started rolling out new MPEG4 HD set-top boxes in the Detroit area, and hopes to put them in all major markets in 2006. The second rocket carrying another MPEG4 satellite was successfully launched earlier this month. What this means for every HD user is that their box must be swapped out in favor of the new MPEG4 boxes. EchoStar has already stated that it won't cost their subscribers anything to obtain a new box. The same may not be said for DirecTV as we simply don't know what they are going to do. We will have to wait for their respective press conferences. Maybe they will offer up a timetable for this rollout by city or region. Or, maybe they will continue to be vague. While both companies have announced stand-alone MPEG4 HD set-top boxes, there's no word on replacements for their expensive MPEG2 HD PVRs. Will there be? We have wait and see.
So, like the Holidays and New Year's, we have CES 2006 to look forward to. This year it will be bigger than it has ever been. CEA is already predicting record attendees. It will also have many exhibits at the Sands Convention Center. And, let's now forget that many manufacturers will also be taking over numerous suites at the Hilton, Mandalay Bay, Caesars, and the Venetian and so on. CES is almost like the BLOB. It continues to grow and grow. I just hope that it doesn’t follow the way of COMDEX, which got so big that it finally imploded.
So, stay tuned. I'll be in LA this coming week to visit with the Blu-ray Disc Association and several movie studios regarding this next-generation high-definition DVD technology, which I hope to report on later in the week.