CEATEC Put ‘Ubiquitous’ CE Products On Display

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Chiba, Japan – “Ubiquitous” was the buzzword at last week’s CEATEC Japan show, held here at the Makuhari Messe complex, but “voluminous” could describe the event, where a plethora of new technologies and new products were put on display, many for the first time.

The “ubiquitous” theme was highlighted by keynote speaker Kunio Nakamura, president of Matsushita Electric Industrial, whose talk was entitled “Creating a Ubiquitous Network Society.” The thesis of his wide-ranging speech was that with the continuing evolution of CE, PC, mobile electronics products, broadband Internet access and e-mail, soon “anyone, anytime, anywhere can access information and benefit from them.”

Nakamura, whose company markets the Panasonic brand, said that the access of information, entertainment and services in quicker, more convenient ways, will by the end of the decade have profound effects on areas such as education, health care, home and business security, improved energy efficiencies and even global warming and the environment.

As for the present and the immediate future in CE products, there was plenty to see, starting with the ongoing next-generation optical media battle between backers of Blu-ray disc and the HD DVD forum, both of whom had booths on the show floor.

HD DVD backers Toshiba and Sanyo showed prototypes of their product, as did Blu-ray adherents JVC, Pioneer and Mitsubishi, among others. Panasonic and Sony, who began shipping their Blu-ray decks recently in Japan, also showed new products. An example is Panasonic’s DMR-E700BD, which features either 4.5 hours (50GB) or 2.25 hours (25GB) of recording, for a price of 270,000 yen, or around $2,700.

Fumio Ohtsubo, president of Panasonic’s AVC Networks Company, told the foreign press visiting CEATEC that he expects Blu-ray to be in the U.S. market by 2006, to coincide with a critical mass of HD programming from cable, satellite and broadcast sources expected by then.

When asked if he thought an agreement might be reached with Hollywood on copy protection to ensure introduction of the format in the United States by 2006, Ohtsubo said that while the studios are dealing with the challenge “many in the CE business now accept Blu-ray. Along with Dell and HP, Sony, which [owns] Columbia and … MGM, back the format.”

“We have some good contacts with Universal” of which Matsushita has a 5 percent to 6 percent ownership stake, so Ohtsubo remains confident.

Toshiba and Canon wowed many of the droves of attendees attracted to their booth dedicated to the next-generation flat-screen display technology called SED (Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display). Those who saw the closed-door demos thought SED had the clarity and crispness of CRT for HDTV, with all the design capabilities of flat panels. The companies showed a 37W-inch panel, that boasts one-third the power consumption of plasma panels, and were said to be working on a 50W-inch version for later release.

What follows is a sampling of some of the products on display at the show. (Follow-up coverage of CEATEC will appear in the Oct. 25 print edition of TWICE and online at www.TWICE.com.)

JVC: A 70W-inch HD-ILA rear projection HDTV prototype and two Everio digital media cameras, which recently launched in the United States (TWICE, Sept. 20, 2004 p. 4), were on display. While the 70W-inch HD-ILA has similar features to the 52W-inch and 61W-inch units available in the United States, no plans have been set for introduction in Japan or overseas as yet.

Panasonic: The latest model of the VIERA series of high-definition plasma displays, the 65W-inch TH-65DX300A, debuted at the company’s booth. The unit, for the Japanese market, is similar to the Onyx brand product introduced at CEDIA last month. It features a contrast ratio of up to 3,000:1 with 1,366 by 768 pixels. Its panel provides about 60,000 hours of use. The suggested retail in Japan is 2.079 million yen or around $20,790.

Panasonic also introduced two D-snap SD video cameras, models SV-AS30 and SV-AS3, that can snap still and moving images, play back video and music files, record voice notes, and share content with a wide variety of SD-enabled products, including digital TVs, DVD recorders and printers. The SV-AS30 will be available later this month in Japan, while the SV-AS3 ships next month here.

Both models function as 3.2-megapixel CCD digital cameras, MPEG-4 video recorders, AAC/WMA/MP3 music players and voice recorders which hold up to 66 hours on a 1GB SD Memory Card. The SV-AS30, super-thin model, incorporates all these features in a compact 53.2 mm by 103.2 mm by 9.9 mm (14.0 mm at the lens) casing.

Pioneer: A “PureVision” 61W-inch HD plasma monitor debuted for the Japan market at CEATEC with a 1.869 million yen, or $18,690, price tag. One of the first displays introduced via its acquisition of the NEC Plasma Display operation, features signal processing from A/D conversion, interlaced/progressive conversion to resize processing into one high-performance LSI, the company said. The set, which is also designed for industrial use, has vertical or horizontal-mounted speakers.

Several DVD recorders with HDD recording capabilities were on display for October shipments in Japan. The DVR920H has 400GB of hard disk memory and a suggested retail of 180,000 yen, or around $1,800.

Sanyo: Along with having its prototype HD DVD recorder on display, Sanyo showed a 55W-inch LCD rear-projection TV, the LP-55WR1, which was originally introduced for the Chinese market and should be available in Japan during December. The company said it could be available in the United States in 2005. The suggested retail in Japan in 550,000 yen, or around $5,500. The unit can provide 720p HD images and has a 1,280 by 720 resolution.

Sony: The Vaio Type X home server system made its debut, featuring 1 terabyte of storage for A/V or PC usage. The distinctly upscale and sleek black system can be purchased alone (with a keyboard and remote) or with a TV tuner and a 23W-inch HD LCD featuring 1,920 by 1,200 pixel resolution and Sony’s Triluminous LED backlight system, which is featured in the recently introduced Qualia 005 and two other units.

The server features four 250GB hard disks that can record TV, perform various PC functions, rip CDs, download music via the Web, and store data. The Type X has a suggested retail of about 520,000 yen, the TV tuner is tagged at 80,000 yen and the LCD display is 400,000 yen. The whole system carries a round 1 million yen figure, or around $10,000. Shipments begin in Japan on Nov. 20, but there are no plans for the U.S. market yet.

Toshiba: In addition to its aforementioned SED flat panel technology, this manufacturer unveiled a line of “beautiful face” flat-panel LCD TVs with the ability to record HD video to an external LAN-compliant hard drive integrated into a home network. Units in the line all use Toshiba’s proprietary “Meta Brain” system LSI and image processing software for improved image quality and enhanced networking capabilities.

Among other features in the line are the ability read and send e-mail, and browse the Web through a broadband connection, Toshiba said. A “net double window” enables users to surf the Web while watching TV side by side. An external keyboard can be attached to the LCD TV’s USB port, which can also support digital cameras and mobile phones to display images.

Toshiba offers two versions of the 37W-inch sets, which are priced at 600,000 yen, or around $6,000, each. The 32W-inch sets are priced at 500,000 yen, or around $5,000. They will ship in Japan in the beginning of November.

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