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The 2001 Consumer Electronics Show will be an Interactive-TV odyssey, as manufactures and Internet service providers prepare to travel to Las Vegas, Jan. 6-9, to showcase a range of convergence products designed to bring data and e-commerce functionality to traditional TV screens.
From the video perspective, look for the key trend to be the integration of interactive applications and services in TV sets and set-top boxes of various stripes.
In a familiar pattern, the object of this consolidation effort is to bring ongoing revenue streams (in the form of subscription services) into the traditionally low-margined consumer electronics space.
Therefore, expect some of these new devices to require either additional monthly service fees or a boost in fees paid to established desktop ISPs, such as AOL or MSN (in some cases ISP fees for Web-enabled TVs will be free to consumers), or in satellite TV bills.
Another popular theme will be flat-screen direct-view TVs in both analog and digital varieties. Seeing the success of Sony's popular Wega flat-screen TV line, more and more companies are introducing lines of their own with perfectly flat picture tubes.
Meanwhile, the flat-TV theme will also accelerate in the LCD panel and plasma display segments, and manufacturers will begin to take advantage of expiring antidumping duties by introducing desktop LCD TVs with built-in tuners. Here, too, both the analog NTSC and digital TV segments will be represented.
In digital television, few new DTV tuner-based products are expected, due in large part to continued battles to gain multi-industry consensus on a digital copy-protection format or a resolution to the debate over the terrestrial broadcast modulation format.
However, to help spark broader consumer acceptance of the new ultra-high-resolution video system, some manufacturers will be announcing new, low price points for HDTV monitors.
Expect new DVD players in virtually every booth, with many manufacturers now adding units with progressive-scan output for use with new digital TV monitors. Many of these players will also include multichannel music capabilities from either the DVD-Audio or Super Audio CD formats.
Also look for lower prices on previously high-priced progressive-scan models.
The integration theme will be seen in DVD players, as a number of manufacturers prepare to show new or expanded lines of DVD/TV combo units (some with flat-screen picture tubes).
The digital age will migrate in a bigger way into the video sphere, as manufacturers prepare to show DVD recorders using various formats, hard-drive-based personal video players (some integrated into satellite set-top boxes), and even some digital recorders that rely on trusty videotape cassettes.
Expect to see some DVD camcorders, as well.
Home satellite services will continue their attempts at leading the convergence revolution by showing new two-way, high-speed Internet-access systems that are designed to marry with dishes used to collect digital TV feeds.
Also, a number of satellite distributors are looking at TV-centric Internet terminals that will enable viewers to browse the Web or shop online while watching their favorite TV shows.