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Branding On Display During CES Press Day

As Wednesday evening drew to a close, another International CES Press Day 2010 went into the books.

For anyone who covers the industry, makes a living buying or selling its products, or is just a fan of technology, the annual day of 45-minute meetings from 8:00 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. and beyond (including cocktail parties, dinners and the like) can be described in a few ways:

* speed dating of manufacturers and new/old media outlets;

* a gluttonous display of the many wonders and delights that the CE industry brings to the public (and CES) every year;

* a tech endurance contest — I saw one colleague from overseas in the afternoon, hands on his keyboard, but head on his chest, asleep during a presentation.

As Nigel Barker, photographer and host of cable TV’s “America’s Top Model,” said to Sony Electronics’ president Stan Glasgow during a bit about new cameras at the company’s press conference, “I feel like a kid in a candy store.”

Many in the media feel that way covering this business, especially on this day, but if you go to enough of these presentations back to back (I visited eight Wednesday), you will get sensory overload, a tech version of the tummy ache your mother warned you would happen if you ate too many sweets on Christmas Eve.

You can get the full product coverage from my colleagues who covered each of the press events I visited in detail, but what I got out of this year’s Press Day was how manufacturers are trying to differentiate their brands.

Plenty of companies had 3D; many emphasized their sensitivity to the environment and the importance of their devices to have connectivity (with an emphasis on wireless), and content is not only king, but key to their futures.

Here is a brief rundown:

LG Electronics: The company introduced its new management team of Wayne Park, president/CEO LG Electronics North America, and James Shad, president of its U.S. sales subsidiary, LG Electronics USA.

LG’s focus is on its “consumers and retailers,” Shad said, and the emphasis of the presentation was on its plethora of products that all seem to be gaining in market share.

3D HDTV is, of course, key for 2010, with wireless-ready TVs coming to the fore, as well as Skype and a wide variety of Internet services on LG TVs. Demos of OLED TVs, network storage in the home, feature-rich smartphones, ATSC mobile TV, LED TVs … it was really a full court press from a brand that has emerged as a more familiar and formidable factor in the U.S. The only thing LG didn’t mention in detail was its successful major appliance business.

Monster Cable: Noel Lee, the head monster, led with the line that his company “always leads, never follows,” and yelled the fact that Monster (and probably other accessory companies) “love 3D TV! Why? 240Hz bandwidth!” Lee and his team unveiled, in machine-gun fashion, HDMI cables for TVs, cameras, camcorders, set-top boxes, you name it, in more shapes, sizes, colors and bandwidths than you’d think possible, as well as USB 3.0 ultra high-speed cables and the like.

“We LOVE high speed bandwidth!” Lee said, and Monster sure does by capitalizing on hardware makers advances and making their products work a little faster, better and easier for consumers.

Toshiba: Cell TV — that’s all you have to know, or, as it is called by the company, “the Ultimate TV.”

“TV is not just a TV anymore,” Scott Ramirez, marketing VP of the company said, and listening to its list of specs and features, you can understand why. It provides 1TB of HDD storage, is a 3D TV that can upgrade 2D TV programming to 3D quality; provides Internet programming; and backs Wireless HD, 802.11N, DLNA among others, etc., etc., etc., so read Greg Tarr’s report on the features for a full look. As Ramirez described Cell TV, “You’ve heard of the ‘It Girl.’ This is the ‘It TV’ for 2010 and beyond.” Pricing is not set yet and shipments should begin around August or so.

Audiovox: Best known for its many brands of car electronics and accessories, the company’s FLO TV has elevated the company into a more high-tech realm. Tom Malone, president of Audiovox Electronics Group, said that last year he promised FLO TV would happen and confirmed that it did roll out by the end of the year to car dealers, taxis, limos, and soon it will be at retail. With a variety of models and styles for the car, including a portable DVD player with FLO, Malone also flaunted Audiovox’s ongoing agreements with Sony for PlayStation products and Sirius XM SkyDocks. Those deals and the company’s many in-house brands made the case that Audiovox is a well-known and trusted CE brand.

Sharp: While it will be demonstrating 3D TV in its booth and said it will ship one or more models by the second half, the emphasis of its lunchtime meeting (Sharp has sponsored the press lunch the last several years) was on the company’s proprietary QuadPixel Technology that adds yellow to the primary color spectrum. The development makes its TVs brighter and provides one trillion (no typo — that is trillion) colors vs. a standard LCD’s one billion colors, enabling consumers to see colors “they have never seen before.” Check out Sharp’s booth to judge for yourself. Sharp also discussed a line of LED lighting, its emphasis on green technology and recycling and solar panel business.

Frankly, International CES Press Day is more than one day’s work, so my next blog will be about the remaining three press events I witnessed on Wednesday — Samsung, Panasonic and Sony.