SAN JOSE, Calif. I expect four or more wireless video options to announce they have each had a haircut, a shave and gotten a new suit of clothes before they arrive at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. CES is where they all hope some big beautiful TV makers take them down to the chapel for a quickie Vegas wedding.
Wireless video is increasingly a foundation of the digital home. It lets high def content leap up from a rack of set-top boxes and media servers to the gorgeous flat panel screen on the wall without climbing unsightly cables. And it lets the various, often mobile notebook, netbook, media player and handset screens share video and music with home PCs and TVs.
Until TVs become true Internet TVs with Web access built-in, wireless video also helps the big screens access the wealth of Internet media on PCs and media servers already in the home.
Despite its vital role, I suspect when we finish our rounds of talks with those TV and set-top box makers, we will find that wireless video took a half step backwards in the past year.
At the last CES, senior engineers from Panasonic, Toshiba and others told us they were moving ahead with the WirelessHD version of wireless video riding 60 GHz networks. The chip sets from SiBeam were still eating up too much power and spitting out too much heat for their gear, but they saw in them a road that would eventually lead to the Happily Ever After.
I suspect the honeymoon will likely be over at CES 2010. Not that the folks at SiBeam or the WirelessHD group did anything wrong. But there are more interesting suitors in the game, and in their own ways each is looking pretty good.
The big boys of Wi-Fi gathered in May 2009, forming the Wireless Gigabit Alliance. They promise their own 60 GHz technology with a spec suitable for multiple applications due before CES, backed by today's Wi-Fi chip makers.
Startup Amimon will be on hand with its WHDI technology, promising wireless video at 5 GHz. It will support longer range and greater penetration through walls than any 60 GHz alternative for those who want a multi-room solution.
Similarly, several companies including startup Quantenna will compete at the bleeding edge of 802.11n with arrays of 3x3 or 4x4 antennas. They too will tout the range and penetration capabilities of 5 and even 2.4 GHz as well as the low costs of mainstream Wi-Fi silicon.
I would not be surprised if at least one other dark horse came charging out of the barn at CES. The mega consumer event tends to draw such players out.
So what's a TV maker to do?
I suspect the answer we will find at CES is that they are continuing to experiment, prototype, test and evaluate. Some will no doubt show WirelessHD, but their commitment likely will not be as exclusive as it seemed a year ago. In short, we are back in the dating game for awhile.