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Tapping Into New Tubes

Hottest new product of the year: A wireless TV-receiver chip that can be implanted in the skull, delivering high-definition video right into the brain.

OK, we made that one up. But there are bound to be some technologies debuting in 2007 whose market viability will sound just as outlandish.

That’s because any attempt to forecast developments in consumer electronics basically breaks down into two different camps: The hype-heavy, could-be-might-be side and the real-world, here-and-now side.

Heavily hyped at this point are Internet-based distribution services and devices such as Apple Computer’s forthcoming interactive-TV box, which routes video streams onto home screens, or more mobile-TV offerings, including the live television service that Verizon Wireless is set to launch early this year.

On the operations side — the here and now — looming large is the Federal Communications Commission’s ruling that bans the sale of cable set-top boxes that include integrated security features, which takes effect in midyear. Cable-system operators also will be building out high-definition television offerings as they look to satisfy the mounting number of subscribers who are buying and hooking up HDTV sets.

Here are the key movements in consumer electronics to watch in 2007, from front-burner issues to long-range advances worth watching.