December 22, 2006 16:12 dmercer
The world's biggest consumer technology show kicks off again in Las Vegas January 8th, although I'll be there from the 6th for the press build-up. I guess it's a sign of age that it seems to come round more quickly every year.
We'll be looking for three major themes this year: HD-everything, home media networking, and internet TV. None is new of course, but at least in the case of the last two we are looking for signs that these are ready for the big time. There are sure to be headlines around Cisco's cable-bypass box (a phrase that does more than most to confirm its US-centric origins). "Cable" for most people outside of the US means little more than a piece of wire, or, if you're lucky, a broadband service that's unreliable. OK, Benelux and Switzerland may be exceptions, but the cable industry by and large has nothing like the strength it has in the States and the term "cable" certainly doesn't just mean multichannel TV. So I hope Cisco comes up with a sexier name that crosses cultural boundaries.
The connected home remains an ambition rather than an achievement, so we'll look for evidence that Vista will do a better job of getting consumers to build their entertainment systems around a media center PC than XP MCE has done so far. As with most things Microsoft I suspect we'll have to wait until a couple of updates before everything works as it should.
Sparks should really be flying between the HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc camps now that commercial activity is well under way. Behind the war of words, however, is the rarely posed question of whether most people need either system at all. DVD doesn't do a bad job, after all. Outside of the PS3 trojan horse strategy, we can't see huge near-term demand for either system in a stand-alone configuration. DVD is safe for a while, and Hollywood is just going to have to put up with a slow market now that DVD has matured.
Some pundits will tell you we soon won't need discs at all. HD web video is already out there and becoming ever more viable as broadband speeds increase. It's a classic mistake to position this as an either-or issue. There's plenty of room for both online and offline models and content owners will make sure they position product to maximise revenues across all platforms.
My upcoming blog and research themes will include Sky+, HDTV, more CES, Blu-ray/HD-DVD, games consoles and all things broadband. If there’s anything else you’d like me to cover, drop me a line.