With CEDIA just ending over a week ago, everyone is now gearing up for CEATEC in Japan on October 3rd. While CEDIA is geared towards high-end audio, video, and displays along with the custom installer, CEATEC takes on a much larger world view. CEATEC previews technology long before its ready for prime time. Some folks even call it a harbinger to CES, which will be held in Las Vegas again in early January 2007.
With a week to go before CEATEC opens, there are always a lot of rumors and speculation about what will be on the show floor. One of the first rumors that I heard this year was that Canon/Toshiba will finally show their 55-inch SED HDTV display to the public. If so, it will certainly make the plasma and LCD TV manufacturers sit up and take notice. I know from personal discussions with plasma TV engineers that they are concerned about SED. In fact, one engineer told me that it's the reason that his company is pushing plasma TV R & D to the limits along with pushing for 1080p plasma displays. And, these flat-panel display makers have a right to be concerned if SED can finally start delivering on its promise. So, we'll have to "wait and see" if Canon and Toshiba deliver.
Speaking about plasma, I expect that several leading plasma TV companies will be showing more 1080p displays in screen sizes ranging from 42-inch, 50-inch and beyond. Plasma is also concerned about LCD displays, in which numerous companies now start offering 1080p displays in 37-inch models and above. While being previewed at CEATEC, they will also be on the show floor at CES.
And, with LCD prices continuing to fall, it makes the plasma makers even more nervous. Let's face it, consumers don't' know the difference between plasma and LCD. They are agnostic, in a sense, to the technology. They only want a flat-panel. Will they hang it on a wall? Well, that's another matter entirely. If Sharp continues to slash prices, LCD TVs will simply become a commodity, and could be on price parity with low-cost CRTs. If that happens, then the CRT would truly be dead!
There's also a rumor that a major Japanese company is looking at FED or Carbon Nanotube display technology as a possible competitor to SED. Which company would that be? I'm not at liberty to say right now, but it could be a current plasma TV maker.
If this rumor is true, it will certainly shake things up somewhat. Carbon nanotubes and FED is related to SED, and also holds the potential to produce exceptional and striking images in 1080p.
In other news this week, DirecTV has finally started deploying its new DIRECTV Plus HD DVR set-top box. Unlike previous models, this model is not purchased but leased from DirecTV. It comes with an upfront cost of $299. I asked about this STB at CEDIA, and found the DirecTV reps to be totally clueless. Why does that not surprise me? Unlike the first DirecTV HD DVR, this model does not use TiVo technology for hard-drive storage. It also has a somewhat smaller hard-drive, which can only record up to 200 hours of standard definition programming, or 30 hours of HD programming at MPEG2 quality or 50 hours at MPEG4 quality. And, according to the web site right now, its over-the-air ATSC tuner is not active. It won't be enabled till "later this year" via a software update. Eventually, anyone who has DirecTV HD will have to upgrade to this STB. However, you will also need a truck roll to get a new dish as well. Instead of the 3 LNB dish that everyone has right now, you'll have to upgrade to a 5 LNB dish so that you can receive MPEG4 signals.
Stay tuned for more developments in Digital TV DesignLine.