CES 2008 – What’s hot in CE

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This year’s show will probably be remembered mostly for a major twist in the hi-def disc format war, following Warner’s announcement that it will be going Blu-ray exclusive (see boxout opposite).
Industry experts speculate that this news and the resultant media aftermath could discourage disc retailers from stocking HD DVDs, which they may perceive to be a dead format. This could potentially spell the end for HD DVD.
Hi-def disc spinners
Manufacturers in the Blu-ray camp have been making the most of this setback for HD DVD, with several companies announcing new players.
Panasonic introduced its DMP-BD50 deck, which includes the new BD-Live functionality, which enables enhanced features via the Internet.
Philips also upped its Blu-ray ante with its new BDP7200 player, which supports BD-Java.
High-end manufacturer Marantz announced its first Blu-ray player – the BD8002 – expected in shops in July 2008.
The recent developments in the HD format war could see a surge in dual players, enabling those that have already invested in HD DVDs to play these as well as Blu-ray discs. Following the launch of its BD-UP500 Duo HD player last year, Samsung has launched the BD-UP5500, which will play both formats and is also equipped with an Ethernet port as well as offering the latest BD-Java and HD DVD interactivity and HDMI 1.3. The player is due in the second half of 2008.
LG also unveiled its second-generation dual format player, the Super Blu (BH200), which is already available in the US, although there were no indications on when this will be available in the UK.
What’s new in TV?
As flat screen TVs become increasingly popular, the race is on to come up with the slimmest TV. Hitachi introduced its 1.5 range – a range of LCDs measuring just 1.5in deep. The 1080p panels will come in 32, 37 and 42in screen sizes. Panasonic displayed its new super-thin 50in plasma which boasts a depth of just 24.7mm (less than 1in). The TV is approximately one fourth as thin as its previous plasma TVs, and weighing in at just 22kg, it’s about half the weight of previous models. Pioneer also wowed the crowds with a 50in plasma screen measuring just 9mm thick and weighing a mere 18.6kg, though this was a pre-production model, not expected to be commercially available until 2009.
Several manufacturers also displayed OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) panels. Samsung presented a 31in pre-production model, while Sony displayed a 11in model which is already available to buy in the US, alongside a 27in prototype.
Korean maker Samsung also introduced several new ranges of LCD and plasma panels, including its Series 7 TVs, which features a new ‘Touch of Colour’ finish, blending a hint of amber into Samsung’s traditional piano black bezel.
Several manufacturers displayed Wireless HD, while Philips previewed its next-gen Ambilight TVs, which feature the ‘spectra’ effect as seen on the Aurea – where the illuminated bezel is split into sections which can be lit with different colours, rather than one single colour, as on the previous Ambilight models.
Along with its successful Kuro plasma range, Pioneer displayed several ‘concept models’, including the Extreme Contrast model, which appears absolutely black, with no measurable light emitting from the television.
Well-known for its giant 103in plasma screen, Panasonic went one better this year, displaying a massive 150in plasma panel, though obviously, as with the 103in panel, this prototype is intended for commercial use, rather than for a home cinema setup.
And finally…
Although home cinema was the major focus of this year’s show, there were countless product launches in all of the other CE sectors.
Highlights included Intempo’s ‘Daisy’ – the world’s first portable low-power Internet/FM radio, which will be available from April.
Also displayed at the show was Samsung’s compact DVD-F1080 DVD player which is also due to hit shops in April. Sporting an unusual design and a gloss black finish (it may also be available in white – this has yet o be confirmed), the player can upscale standard-def DVDs to 1080p.
And for those after something a little different, Sony unveiled its Rolly 1GB MP3 player with built-in speakers, which ‘dances’ along to the music it plays, either from its internal memory or streamed by Bluetooth from a nearby source. A UK launch date has not yet been announced.
The future of HD DVD has been thrown into doubt, following Warner Bros. Entertainment’s announcement that it will release hi-def content exclusively on Blu-ray Disc from June 2008.
Paramount Studios, which only recently signed a deal to release content exclusively on HD DVD, has since denied rumours circulating at CES suggesting that it too would jump ship and join the Blu-ray camp.
A statement from Toshiba expressed surprise and disappointment at Warner’s decision, but the manufacturer remained bullish, claiming that HD DVD is still the best format for consumers and that strong sales figures reflect this.
Rather tellingly, the HD DVD Promotion Group cancelled its CES press conference along with all planned one-to-one interviews.
Porn label Digital Playground has also dropped HD DVD in favour of Blu-ray. It has previously been speculated that HD DVD’s support of the porn industry could lead to victory in the ‘format war’ echoing in the struggle between VHS and Betamax in the 80s.

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