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Philips Readies Blu-ray, Upgrades Ambilight TVs

Las Vegas — Flat-panel TVs with upgraded Ambilight technology, wireless music distribution within a home and Blu-ray topped Philips’s introductions here at International CES.

Outlining its Blu-ray plans, the company said it plans second-half shipments of a player-only model and a PC triple writer, which will write to write-once and rewritable Blu-ray discs, DVDs and CDs. Prototypes of both are being demonstrated, but prices haven’t been determined. Although the company hasn’t decided which countries will get its Blu-ray products in the second half, Philips Consumer Electronics CEO Rudy Provoost said the company will “probably focus first on North America.”

Provoost also discussed the strengths of the Blu ray format with Bob Chapek, Buena Vista Home Entertainment president, saying that the format is an “intergrated value partnership” for both HDTV and the format.

The player will support all high-bandwidth multichannel audio formats, including DTS HD and Dolby TrueHD, for output in native form via the player’s HDMI 1.3 output, which also transfers 1,080p video. It wasn’t certain whether the player’s 5.1–channel analog outputs would transport the high-bandwidth soundtracks or only the traditional Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1-channel soundtracks. The first-generation products won’t connect to the Internet to stream additional audio content, such as director’s comments, while discs are playing.

The company said it’s confident the AACS content-protection group would approve copy-protection rules that would allow component analog outputs to carry HD video to early-generation HDTV monitors and TVs that lack HDMI inputs.

In flat-panel HDTV, the company unveiled next-generation Ambilight-equipped plasma and LCD TVs. Next-generation Ambilight includes Ambilight Surround and Ambilight Full Surround, which emit ambient light along the TV frame in colors matching the dominant colors appearing on different sides of the screen. Ambilight Surround creates the effect around the left, top and right sides of the screen, while Ambilight Full Surround delivers color effects on all sides of the screen. Last year’s models delivered the lighting effects only on the left and right sides of the screen.

Ambilight is said to reduce eyestrain, expand the scene and image, and improve perceived picture detail, contrast and color, the company said.

The new Ambilight line, including two-sided Ambilight, consists of flat-panel TVs with sizes ranging from 37 inches to 50 inches. All are HDTV sets.

In wireless music distribution, the company is showing two HDD-equipped Streamium tabletop systems that stream music wirelessly to speaker-equipped clients in other rooms. The company launched one model in Europe last year but didn’t ship it in the United States because deliveries would have been too close to Christmas, said VP Frank Pauli. The two new models expand capacity to 40GB and 80GB, with plans later in the year for a 100GB model, he added.

The Streamium wireless music center (WACS700) rips CDs to MP3 files for storage on a 40GB HDD and uses built-in IEEE 802.11g to wirelessly stream five separate songs simultaneously to five wireless music stations while playing a sixth song .

Currently available, the WACS700 consists of the main unit and one music station at a combined suggested $999. The 80GB WAC5 main unit and a bundled WAS700 client will be available in the first quarter of 2006.