At this time of year, everyone asks me what they should look for at CES. It’s a fair question. It all depends what you are interested in. The South Hall, for example, will encompass many companies that market home theater-type products – both audio and video. Many of these companies will be on the lower level. The upper level of the South Hall will feature numerous Asian companies such as BenQ, Optoma, and the like showing off their latest flat-panel displays. The Central Hall will house many mainstream CE companies like Sony, Philips, LG, Pioneer, TI, Samsung to name just a few. RCA will be a shadow of its former self, and its TV’s will be located in the TTE booth on the lower level of the South Hall. Sadly, it’s RCA in name only really. I remember the days when RCA was the “king of TVs” having the lion’s share of the market. It’s truly sad.
Anyway, onto bigger and brighter things at CES. Displays will be a major part of the show this year with numerous examples of 1080p. DLP won’t be the only display technology with 1080p this year. Epson will have 1080p 3LCD products, and the LCoS companies like Brillian and JVC will be showing new models. Sony will be there with SXRD. Plasma is going 1080p also with examples from LG, Pioneer, Panasonic and Hitachi among others. Possibly Fujitsu also will have a 1080p plasma display. And we know that there will be numerous examples of 1080p LCD panels from several companies such as LG .Philips, Sharp, and some other SE Asian companies in China and Taiwan. Speaking of 1080p, let’s not forgot the SED folks – Canon and Toshiba, who hope to give the flat-panel guys a run for their money. SED will be on the show floor in sizes greater than 50-inches. I can’t wait!
Not to be outdone, several set-top box manufacturers will be offering ATSC-compliant boxes having the capability to record shows, and may even include a DVD player. I expect this year to see many more examples of IPTV products featured by several manufacturers, which may be part of Telcos, cable, or Internet providers. Combination is the key here making these STBs truly a product of convergence. Convergence was a topic talked about several years ago, but now is finally starting to mean something.
Of course, CES will also be a battleground this year for the next-generation optical disc formats. Both Blu-ray and HD DVD will be holding respective “by invitation only” events at the show. And, without a proper invite, you will not get in, and they are very serious about it. Both formats will now probably launch in the April/May 2006 timeframe. I can’t say Spring anymore as one reader pointed out to me that NOT all folks reading Digital TV DesignLine are from North American. We can expect to finally get firm launch dates from the hardware providers, and movie studios will announce the titles that will be available at launch for each. So, the question is, “Will Blu-ray be the de facto standard as it believes, or will there be an upset at market and HD DVD becomes the dominant format like VHS so long ago?”
So, remember to take several pairs of good walking shoes, and don’t forget your bottled water. For the Press, the show starts Tuesday afternoon with “CES Unveiled.” Then, it’s all downhill from there. In order to get the most out of the show, you must be like a general who plans his/her battleground accordingly. Think of each convention hall as a specific battle and strategize your best plans. Working your way through each conventional hall is like weaving your way through a mine field of numerous gadgets and gizmos in order to get to the good stuff. Remember; don’t complain to me on the 2nd week in January that you’re exhausted. You’ve just been through a war. Charge!!
Have a great CES everyone!