Reflecting on CEDIA EXPO 2006 finds me noting that the show continues to grow and grow. Clearly, it's becoming a "Mini CES." I don't know if that's good or bad. Certainly, its' a harbinger of "things to come" in terms of 1080p, flat-panel displays, front video projectors, next-generation optical discs, audio technologies, and video processing. Last year in Indianapolis, EXPO attracted 26,000 attendees. This year it is estimated that somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 folks attended, which is a dramatic increase.
First and foremost, let's talk about next-generation optical disc for a moment. Its still Blu-ray Disc vs. HD DVD, but things a somewhat different come September 2006. Initially, it was felt that BD would simply trounce HD DVD. This hasn't happened. Blu-ray continues to be delayed by all of the major players except Samsung. Sadly, Samsung had a lackluster start due to tinkering with its Gennum video processing chip making the images soft. The other major Blu-ray players will hopefully now launch in late October or so -- Sony, Panasonic and Pioneer. Some folks have characterized this situation as the "Blu-ray follies," and described HD DVD as, "the little engine that could." At CEDIA, Toshiba introduced second generation players, which will hopefully speed up the slow "boot-up" time of the player. More importantly, Toshiba's HD-XA2 will include 1080p output and HDMI 1.3. I think that this is a big deal. While I was hopeful in seeing a major audio brand like Denon or Yamaha come out either a BD or HD DVD player, they are taking a "wait and see" attitude and not committing to any format right now. So, it's still a "horse race," and you never know who could win.
Not surprisingly, 1080p displays dominated EXPO. Both flat-panel and MicroDisplays featured 1080p products. In terms of LCDs, most manufacturers were "fleshing out" their lines by adding in-between sizes. For example, Sharp introduced a 42-in. screen size, and Sony added a 52-in. variant making gradual steps in each company's line from a 32-in. screen size. Most LCDs above 37-in. are now 1080p. In terms of Plasma TVs, there's a migration to 1080p. Pioneer started the ball rolling the Summer with the introduction of their 50-in. monitor-only model. At the show, Pioneer reduced the price by $2,000 to $8,000. Runco introduced at CEDIA their 50-in. 1080p plasma as did Hitachi in a 60-in. size. There was some confusion with Hitachi's new 42-in. plasma, which turned out to be 1080i instead of 1080p. More plasma manufacturers will be showing 1080p models at CES.
There was a lot of activity at the TI (Texas Instruments) booth as it showed off both 1080p DLP front video projectors, and 1080p DLP MicroDisplays. Two of the MicroDisplays highlights were Samsung's and NuVision's LED-based DLP HDTVs, and, of course, Samsung's Slim DLP. It was learned that there will be second manufacturer introducing Slim DLP by the end of the year. While TI would not say who the manufacturer was, the general consensus of the press was that it might be Mitsubishi. It was also learned that Mitsubishi and TI are collaborating on laser-based DLP for introduction next year. It will be on display at CES.
The market for front video projectors is clearly growing with prices starting at $999 for a 720p model (Optoma), and going upwards to the tens of thousands of dollars for models from companies like Runco and DPI. However, the trend for projectors is 1080p. Clearly, 1080p passes all display technologies. Another trend in video projectors is models that feature the capability of displaying an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (instead of just 16:9 that is 1.85:1 aspect ratio). This trend is also known as CinemaScope, and most companies are now offering select models with 2.35:1 aspect ratios and optional anamorphic lens -- some are motorized and some are manual.
Lastly, video processing chip companies such as Silicon Optix, Gennum, and DVDO took booths on the show floor this year. In year's past, I don't remember video processing being talked about except in back room. Each company was touting why their chipsets were better than their competitors. White papers on video processing chipsets will be featured on Digital TV DesignLine in the coming months.