We are now one week removed from CES giving us all a chance to reflect on one of the largest CES shows ever. With more than 150,000 attendees and over 2,500 exhibitors, CES 2006 was a monster to cover, and 2007 looks to be worse -- if that's possible. Anyway, with this Blog, I wanted to shift gears somewhat and talk about other product categories that were highlighted at CES -- namely semiconductor products and set-top boxes.
Maybe, it's because I came from the consumer side that I was never really aware of the presence of semiconductor companies at CES before. Or, have those companies finally realized that CES is a major staging area for the introduction of new and innovative CE products? In any case, I will try and highlight some trends within these two distinct areas.
Its impossible to cover all of the companies showing products at CES, so I will highlight only a few worth noting. Micronas Semiconductor had a lot of news at CES. First, they wanted the world to know that they had completed the purchase of WISchip International, who is a leader in video compression and streaming technologies. Secondly, Micronas has implemented the first Dolby Virtual Speaker technology in a TV-specific sound processor. Lastly, their MicViper reference design now offers PC OEMs a production-ready solution for PC home theater applications. This sound like it could be incorporated into Windows Media PCs 2006 edition, which will be HD-capable.
Freescale Semiconductor let everyone know that their technology is embedded into several consumer electronics products from Toshiba's GigiBeat S Series of hard-disc drive media players to Belkin's Cable-Free USB product line that uses Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology. ViewSonic, for example, uses Freescale's Power QUICC various types of displays, Freescale's MC44SD803 single-chip broadcast tuner simplifies set-top box design. Another semiconductor company that showed off its technology was Wolfson Microelectronics. According to the company, their devices are found in numerous CE products including LCD-TV, DVD players, DVD-RW, MP3, and gaming consoles among others. At the show, Wolfson touted their new stereo codec that is designed for Digital Video. Wolfson's WM8569 stereo codec is targeted for a range of audio applications including sound cards, digital televisions, DVD-RW devices, and the portable video recorder market.
Philips Semiconductor also showcased a new family of audio/video decoders to significantly enhance the consumer experience of the digital home. By integrating multi-standard stereo and a seamless interface with advanced silicon tuner solutions into the new SAA7136 and SAA7137 decoder family such as high-fidelity stereo and 480p/576p component video capture, in wireless TV, media gateways, digital media adapters and other emerging applications, at approximately 20 percent lower prices than older generation stand-alone analog stereo and video decoder solutions. Philips noted that according to In-Stat, the market for devices that require advanced A/V decoders is expected to grow from 33 million in 2005 to 122 million units in 2009.
Philips also highlighted its silicon tuner line of products that includes TDA8271A, TDA8274A, TDA18275A, TDA8262, TDA8263 and TDA8290 digital IF demodulator. Philips second generation of Silicon Tuners are multi-standard for analog broadcast. With the inclusion of a channel decoder into the system design, such as the TDA10046A, into the system design a PC can receive both analog and digital TV. Philips Silicon Tuners interface seamlessly to the SAA7131 audio/video decoder. Philips further announced two new Nexperia semiconductor system solutions at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). These solutions will reportedly enhance the quality of LCD TV experiences of the Connected Consumer and reduce the time-to-market for next-generation TVs. Designed for mid- to high-end LCD TVs, the TV810 reference design brings unprecedented picture quality for analogue and digital TV and offers rich content for the connected environment, whilst the PNX5050 is the first system solution to offer a “natural motion” enhanced High Definition (HD) viewing experience.
In terms of set-top box design, I've always covered both the satellite and cable industries. Both DirecTV and EchoStar announced that they have started deploying their MPEG-4 HD boxes to consumers. These are non-PVR models. This will continue throughout 2006 on a market-by-market basis. By mid-to-late 2006, next-generation MPEG-4 HD PVRs should be available from both companies. According to DirecTV, you can either wait for them to get to your area and the swap will be free, or you could do it early and the cost would be $99. Of course, the new MPEG-4 boxes do require a new satellite dish as well. Not to be outdone on the cable site, Scientific Atlanta showcased their new set-top box DVR product that now includes a DVD recorder/player as well as Voice-over IP cable modem with DECT plus various IPTV solutions.
Next week I will start going through all of my press kits from CES. As trends emerge, I will highlight them here.