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Panasonic Outlines ‘LifeStream’ At CES

Connecting consumers to each other through their CE devices in a simple, easy-to-understand way is an idea whose time has come, according to Fumio Ohtsubo, president and CEO of Panasonic AVC Networks Company.

In his keynote address during International CES earlier this month, Ohtsubo, who is also senior managing director and board member of parent Matsushita Electric Industrial, said LifeStream by Panasonic, “will translate into new products, services and solutions for the customer … and new sources of excitement, revenue and profit for our retailers. We must develop products from a human perspective.”

Initially, Panasonic is focusing on using SD flash memory cards as the primary method of making content available to A/V and computing devices. SD cards are not only used in portable products, but Panasonic is placing them more frequently in LCD TVs and DVD players, said Reid Sullivan, VP of Panasonic Consumer Electronics, who joined Ohtsubo during the keynote.

The ubiquitous use of SD tied to newly redesigned graphical user interfaces will help consumers understand, enjoy and operate Panasonic products, Sullivan said.

To show what the SD cards’ small size enables, Sullivan showed the audience a Panasonic AV-100 digital camcorder. It is about the size of a deck of cards and comes with a 512MB SD card. This can hold 20 minutes of DVD-quality video or over four hours of MPEG4, Sullivan said.

Also tying everything together will be a much more powerful version of power-line-based home networking that Panasonic calls Power Line Communications (PLC), said Dr. Paul Liao, Panasonic’s chief technology officer. He demonstrated a power-line network that he said could transmit data at 170MB-per-second or more than 10 times the current rate.

Liao said that this improvement would allow multiple streams of HD programming to be networked in a home over a single electrical wire. And by using a home’s electric grid, it greatly simplifies the consumer’s task of installing the network, one of LifeStream’s primary tasks.

The company is now working on a specification with the HomePlug Association that may result in it being set by this summer, with PLC-based products to become available in late 2004.

“LifeStream — this new level of connectivity promises a new era for our industry. It enables our industry to provide what consumers are truly looking for: simplicity, ease of use and freedom,” Ohtsubo said.

And he added, “LifeStream, our networking vision, will help people connect. And ensure that our products connect. But it can do something even bigger. It can help us connect to one another.”