Against the backdrop of the glitz of Las Vegas, the opulence of Caesars Palace, and the frenzy of March Madness, Sony held its annual Open House. The Open House has always been designed as the vehicle, in which Sony unveils its new line of TV, video and audio products. Sadly, this year many of Sony's new products weren't ready for 'Prime Time.' In fact, Sony only showed one new 46-in. Bravia LCD HDTV, three 3LCD rear projection HDTVs (a 46-in., 50-in. and 55-in.) at a screen resolution of 720p, and a couple of plasma displays for business applications. Apparently, the bulk of the 2006 TV line will be announced in late May/early June at the Home Entertainment Show, which will be held this year in Los Angeles. It should be noted, however, that there were new camcorders, home theater systems, A/V Receivers, DVD recorders and players, digital still cameras, in-car entertainment, storage solutions, personal audio products, and new VAIO computers (including the new XL2 Digital Living System that includes an ATSC tuner and 360GB hard-drive)
It is expected that at that time the new 1080p SXRDs will be shown. Of course, there's speculation on the part of many journalists if these new rear projection models will offer reduced depth configurations as shown in prototype at CES, or, if any, will include LED illumination. Certainly, Sony's competitor -- Texas Instruments - has indicated that, at least one manufacturer will be offering an LED-based DLP rear projection HDTV this Summer, and another may be even offering a 'Flat DLP' model too, which was previewed "behind closed doors" at CES in January 2006. Clearly, rear projection TV category in general, and Micro- Displays (MDTVs) in particular are not dead as the flat-panel display manufacturers would like you to believe. To paraphrase Mark Twain, "The reports of their death have been greatly exaggerated!" In terms of large-screen HDTVs, MDTVs certainly make a lot of sense because they don't offer the pitfalls or technology deficiencies that are still inherent to their flat-panel brethren.
Sony did also have a technology session on Blu-ray disc technology. First and foremost the November introduction of PlayStation3 (PS3) was discussed. Supposedly, PS3 will have an additional layer of copy protection, and also include HDMI v1.3, which according to Sony, relates to gaming. Hmm. When it was asked if PS3 had component video outputs, it was suggested to check the website. Surprisingly, the website is silent on component video outputs for PS3 as it only mentioned HDMI outputs. Apparently, games will have to upgrade their TVs before they start play, or they could be in for a really big surprise. At the PS3 mock-up at CES, there were no component video outputs.
At the Blu-ray technology session, Sony's BDP-S1 was introduced. This BD player will be available in July for about $1,000. According to Sony officials, it’s the same price as their first DVD player in 1997. Hmm. What's surprising is what this player won't do. It doesn't playback CDs, and it only supports current Dolby Digital and DTS surround formats. It does not support the new Dolby TruHD or DTS HD. How odd? It does playback Blu-ray movies at 1080p via HDMI, and it does have component video output with the capability to output video signals from 480i to 1080i. Of course, this depends on the Image Constraint Token (ICT) on a particular movie. For the time being, we know that Sony Pictures and its minions will not be invoking ICT. However, when I asked Warner Bros. about ICT, I was told that they will not comment on 'anti-piracy' measures. Now, according to the AACS-LA, each and every movie title is supposed to state if the ICT is invoked or not. Hmm. Maybe we should say 'Buyer Beware' with Warner titles for Blu-ray and HD DVD as the consumer won't know if video signals will pass via component video or not till they get the disk in the machine. This could be a PR nightmare. What do you think? Stay tuned to Digital TV DesignLine for the latest news and trends in Digital TV, Digital Rights Management, next-generation HD optical discs, and IPTV.