Today was Press Day at CES 2006, which is held annually in Las Vegas each January. There were eight major press conferences held by LG, Thomson, Toshiba, Pioneer, Sharp, Philips, Panasonic, and Sony. There were two themes that ran through most of the press conferences – 1080p displays and next-generation optical disc. Clearly, the theme coming from each and every TV manufacturer is that 2006 is the year of 1080p. The largest display of the day was unveiled by Panasonic, who showed their 103-in. 1080p plasma display, and also indicated that they would be shipping their 65-in. 1080p plasma display this year. Many of the 1080p PDPs were monitor only with the thought being that they would probably be either attached to either a satellite or cable set-top box to receive HD signals. Ironically, both LG and Panasonic claim to be the leading manufacturer of PDP panels in the world. How interesting!
LG noted that 14 million television sets in 2006 will be new technology models: 8.0 million will be LCD, 4.0 million will be PDP, and 2.0 million will be Micro-Display. Panasonic claims that it will ship close to 3. 0 million plasma sets themselves. Later in the morning, Toshiba was even more bullish believing that there will be 19.4 million DTV sets in 2006, but did not give a breakdown based on display technology. Pioneer, who is another staunch PDP manufacturer, noted that HD has a penetration of 25-percent. Hmm. Philips did not make any market statements, but simply focused on their key technologies used in the flat-panel displays such as Clear LCD, and the newly announced AmbiLight 3.
Sharp continues to believe that the only true flat-panel technology is LCD, and unveiled a new 57-in. model. While other manufactures believe that there will be price parity between plasma and LCD, Sharp does not and believes that LCD will always have a slight premium. Toshiba remains bullish on flat-panel displays, and vowed to increase the number of models in 2006. Toshiba also noted that it believes that Micro-Display sales have peaked. While still a strong supporter of 1080p DLP, Toshiba is looking to new technologies such as SED. SED is being shown publicly in the Toshiba booth in a 36-in. screen size. Although, Toshiba noted that it will ship a 50-in.+ model his year. Sony also showed a prototype of a new 55-in. SXRD that was under 13-in. deep. Very impressive!
Shifting gears to next-generation optical disks, Toshiba clearly made the most thunder by announcing that they will be shipping two HD DVD players in March 2006. One model will be priced at $499, and the step-up model at $799. Later in the evening, the HD DVD Promotion Group held an evening event that included major film studios – Warner Bros. and Universal. It was announced that there will be about 20 titles or so at launch in March, but will grow to approx. 200 titles by year-end 2006. Several new films like “Batman Begins,” and “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” among others will be included in the initial releases.
All of the companies that will be offering Blu-ray disc players –NOT RECORDERS – will be offering models in the 2nd quarter of this year or over the Summer (June – September) timeframe. Except for Pioneer Elite, who be selling a model for $1,800, no Blu-ray disc player pricing was given. It would appear that the first product with Blu-ray disc playback capability will be the Sony PlayStation 3. From all indications, it would appear that it will probably go on sale in the May/June timeframe. What’s ironic here is that Sony’s gaming group will have first crack at Blu-ray market. Pricing will be a dilemma for Sony as it will want to stay competitive with Microsoft’s Xbox360, but not be too expensive to drive potential game purchasers away. In the Sony booth, I heard the price of $600 come up several times. If PS3 is priced at $600, will it be undercutting the price of player-only models? While Pioneer Elite’s price of $1,800 is clearly high, the question remains of how much lower stand-alone players will be. These could easily be priced in the $800 - $1,000 range. So, we will just have to see. Stay tuned to Digital
TV DesignLine for the latest happenings.