The depth of the recession in the US consumer electronics market was highlighted today by CEA data which confirmed a decline in dollar revenues in 2009 of 12%. The outlook for 2010 improves but only in the sense that the rate of decline falls to 3%.
In the meantime we're hearing news of new 3D TV channels already, with both ESPN and Discovery throwing their hats into the ring. This is great, if expected, news for the many 3D-ready TVs we expect to see over the next few days.
At this evening's CES Unveiled event Sensio were showing their passive 3DTV, even though the company today announced its partnership with Visio to launch an active 3DTV later this year. Mitsubishi was also showing its laser 3DTV with the adaptor which will be necessary for compatibility with Blu-ray 3D players when they are lauinched.
Logitech was showing its new Lapdesk N700, a laptop “cushion” with in-built speakers designed for enhanced laptop usage in the comfort of the armchair. The peripheral retails at $89.99 and also features an in-built cooling fan to prevent over-hearing, a familiar problem for those many TV viewers who now sit with a laptop on their knees. Logitech have thoughtfully added a grip to help keep the laptop steady, but unfortunately in my case it failed to prevent the Macpro falling to the floor. No damage done, luckily, but perhaps evidence of a need for further improvement in design.
Logitech was also demonstrating the fruits of its recently closed acquisition of Lifesize Communications, a videoconferencing specialist. On display was its Passport set-top videoconferencing device. This retails at $2500 and allows anyone with a minimum 2-way 1Mbps broadband connection to communicate using HD video (720p). The service downscales to lower resolutions for slower bandwidth connections. Logitech claims that this device is a third of the price of any other similar product on the market. That may be true today but is unlikely to remain so for much longer. Videoconferencing and telepresence are shaping up to be one of the emerging trends of this CES and we will hear a lot more over the next few days, in addition to the Skype/Panasonic/LG announcement today.
Yet another OTT video set-top box was being demonstrated by Syabas with its Popbox product. This grew out of the company’s Popcorn Hour device. The Popbox has been designed to be especially user-friendly, and the user interface does appear attractive and accessible. The service integrates currently 20 “content application channels”, which means things like Netflix, and is working with 200 application developers. It will launch in March 2010 and retail at $129, plus $20 for the optional WiFi module. The Popbox is 1080p-capable, although the only 1080p content was demonstration material. If Syabas manages to sign 1080p deals with content providers it will certainly be a step ahead of most competitors.
ProVision CEO Steve Cliffe was confident enough in his company’s wireless HD technology to carry a laptop across the show floor while it streamed 1080i HD content, and there was no loss or deterioration in signal. This UK firm was founded by professors at Bristol University, and uses proprietary error correction and RF management techniques to improve HD video streaming over 802.11n. The company is talking to set-top box and TV manufacturers looking to support HD distribution to multiple home devices.
Another UK firm, Imagination Technologies, was launching its Pure digital radio products for the US market. Pure is the leader in the UK but virtually unknown overseas. It will, rightly, tread carefully as it enters the notoriously challenging US market, and will obviously (since the standard is not used) drop DAB from its US product line-up, instead concentrating purely (sorry) on internet radio. Its Sensia product is the highlight of the range and features a full-colour touch screen LCD display as well as additional interactive capabilities like Twitter and Facebook. Pure confirmed to us that video-capable devices are a natural step forward and can be expected in the next year or so.
Client Reading: HDTV: Standards Muddle Clouds Outlook For Wireless Displays