Strategy Analytics surveyed
various emerging wireless video connectivity technologies early in 2007. We concluded at the time that a winning standard was unlikely to emerge within a couple of years. In particular there were doubts over the availability of the newly formed WirelessHD consortium's technology, which, while it clearly represented the most advanced proposed solution, was unproven and some time away from commercial availability.
This morning we were lucky enough to be the first to see SiBeam's demonstration of WirelessHD (WiHD) technology in a private suite away from the CES floor. Besides proving that the technology works, the WirelessHD group is expecting a number of manufacturers to announce WiHD products during 2008, and indeed at their CES press conference this morning Toshiba highlighted this as one thing to look out for in future announcements, although no timing was confirmed.
SiBeam's demonstration had set up a Blu-ray Disc player to stream an uncompressed 1080p version of Ice Age to a 50" display. It also transmitted a live HD video camcorder to the same display. Picture links are below.
SiBeam video camera
Video quality was certainly impressive, and the streaming was unaffected by line of sight interruptions because of the technology's multi-antenna approach. WirelessHD believes there are four key requirements from Hollywood to gain studio support: strong encryption, established copy protocols, uncompressed video, and proximity control. The latter is intended to ensure that content remains within the home, if not within the room itself. For this reason WirelessHD is concentrating on supporting a single AV system around a "coordinating device" (ie a TV), rather than the whole home network.
Competing solutions claim that WiHD is some time from market availability, whereas alternatives are available now. PulseLINK
in particular is claiming that its first products, in partnership with Westinghouse, will be available from the middle of 2008, with dongles arriving in the fall.
group itself believes the first consumer products will begin to emerge at the end of this year, and that CES 2009 will be a key launchpad. Pricing will of course be critical, and that again is something that is difficult to determine at the moment. But the group expects that manufacturers will be able to target price points set by alternative technologies. In this case we would be looking at a $200 retail price premium for an integrated device, or $300 for a dongle. Whether that can be achieved at product launch remains to be seen. We suspect that the first retail WiHD products are likely to command somewhat higher premiums, but much will depend on the consortium's key members demonstrating large scale commitment to drive volumes as rapidly as possible. As in most things CE, there is certainly no sign yet that any particular technology is going to dominate in the early days of this emerging market.
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