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Thomson Expands Digital Direction

INDIANAPOLIS — Thomson stuck to a digital message in showing the press products it will emphasize during the final quarter of 2000.

Beyond its announced plans for flat-screen direct-view TVs next year and an expanded lineup of HDTV sets and monitors this year (TWICE, Aug. 21, p. 1), Thomson showed a range of devices designed to tie in with services that will provide the manufacturer with added revenue streams.

Devices previously discussed but shown in final form included two eBooks, an Internet radio, a digital media jukebox, and a return to digital camcorders.

Although the digital TV lineup took center stage, Thomson executive VP Jim Meyer and senior VP Mike O’Hara both expressed disappointment in the way broadcasters have handled their end of the digital TV transition.

Due to broadcast-industry foot-dragging, said Meyer, the rollout of HDTV “has lost its momentum.” In the case of integrated HDTV sets, he said the company would sell “half of what we would have next year,” and Thomson is now looking at ATSC-tunerless Hi-Res models as its money-making segment for 2001.

Meyer lamented that the inactivity of broadcasters in providing digital television content virtually forced Thomson to take an underwriting role for the CBS NFL playoff schedule.

Candidly, Meyer told reporters he “hated” to have to pay broadcasters to do HDTV, expressing concern that “some networks were abandoning their stations” in the digital TV rollout. He called the VSB modulation challenge raised by some broadcasters an excuse to waste time on HDTV programming production.

Meyer added that he would like to see DirecTV take a more aggressive role in offering HDTV content to make up for broadcasters’ failures.

Similarly, he reported the rollout of the Geocast data-broadcasting system, which is financially backed by both Thomson and Philips, has been delayed due to management changes. Thomson had planned to offer an RCA Geocast receiver to deliver data from off-air digital TV signals to PCs by mid-2001.

Geocast is now exploring conduits for its data services other than digital terrestrial TV signals, Meyer said. Cable and satellite systems were mentioned as processor to automatically up-convert 1080i (interlaced) high-definition signals to 1080p (progressive) resolution, improving interlaced artifacts such as stair-stepping and motion scan lines found in the 1080i signal. The Faroudja device also automatically upconverts 480p signals to 960p, while 720p signals pass through the processor. Standard 480i sources can be upconverted to 1080p.

The DVP3000 ($19,995) adds all the capabilities of the DVP5000 except the ability to convert 1080i signals to 1080p.

Fujitsu will present its Plasmavision SlimScreen PDS-4222, billed as “the thinnest, highest-definition flat-panel display available.” Other displays at the show will include new Plasmavision SlimScreen monitors (models PDS-4214 and PDS-4209) at improved price points, and the flagship LPF-7200 portable multimedia LCD projector, which lists brightness levels of 2500 ANSI lumens.

The PDS-4222 and PDS-4221 ($15,999 suggested each ) are compatible with virtually any video source. Their high-resolution 1,024 x 1,024 pixel array can display images “at true 1080i and 720p HDTV resolution, as well as 480i and 480p SDTV signals,” the company said.

The new PDS-4214 and PDS-4209 offer multisource capability, with the ability to display HDTV, DVD, computer and other video sources on the 42W-inch, 16:9 screen. Suggested retail price for the PDS-4214 is $9,999, while the PDS-4209 carries a suggested retail price of $7,999.

Fujitsu’s new LPF-7200 ($14,999) portable multimedia LCD projector is designed for home theater applications and is ideal for virtually any high-end video display application.

It can display most high-resolution video sources through its digital and analog video inputs. Also included is a 3D Y/C NTSC comb filter, as well as keystone correction.

Hitachi will unveil two widescreen HDTV-capable rear-projection monitors. The 61SWX01W is a 61W-inch model that will display 1080i HDTV format signals in native scan mode. It will ship in October at a $4,999.95 suggested retail price.

The 53SWX01W is a 53W-inch version that will carry a $3,999.95 suggested retail when it ships in October.

The company will also feature a 42W-inch plasma display panel and a widescreen rear-projection HDTV-capable set based on the new Texas Instruments single widescreen DLP chip. The HDTV-capable unit will ship in November at $9,999.95.

Philips will emphasize new widescreen HDTV-capable models in the 30W- and 34W-inch direct-view screen sizes and 55W-, 60W- and 64W-inch rear-projection screen sizes.

The 64W-inch model is an ATSC-tunerless replacement for the 64PH9905, fully integrated HDTV set. The HDTV-ready version, which will continue to have 9-inch CRTs, will sell for $7,999 instead of the $9,999 asked for the integrated version.

Other featured product demonstrations will include a DVD+RW digital video recorder, Super Audio CD player and “new announcements about the Pronto” touchscreen system remote.

Runco will introduce an HDTV-upgrade chip for the controller in its VX-101C video projector system. The upgrade will cost $1,000 and will enable the projector to display 720p 1080i and 480p DTV source material, in addition to a variety of VESA computer signals.

Samsung will highlight its FLCD rear-projection television technology, showing a 43W- (HLK436W, $5,999) and a 50W-inch model (HLK506W, $6,999). Both units will display the 720p HDTV format in full resolution. Also to show are a new 40W-inch LCD-based SDTV-capable rear-projection TV and a new 65W-inch widescreen integrated HDTV set (model HCJ655W, $6,999).

Other units to be exhibited are a 55W-inch HDTV-capable 16:9 CRT-based rear-projection TV (HCJ552W, $4,999), and three “Dyna-Flat” flat-screen direct-view sets in the 32-inch 4:3 ($1,599); 27-inch 4:3 ($1,199) and 30W-inch 16:9 ($2,199) screen sizes.

Samsung will also demonstrate its DVD-RAM digital video recorder (DVD-R2000, $1,999.99), and its NUON-enhanced DVD player (DVD-N2000, $399).

Sensory Science will display the full line of Loewe TVs, including some new models based on a new 2400 digital chassis that will enable 1080i HDTV input capability through HD component and RGB via VGA video inputs, among other things. It adds an improved video scaler/de-interlacer with 3-2 pull-down processing for cleaner images from film-based source material.

New models include the Planus PLA 5303 PL, a 30W-inch 16:9 direct-view set with a “Super-Flat” tube in a platinum cabinet finish using the 2400 chassis.

The Aconda series of DTV-ready monitors uses “Real-Flat” widescreen picture tubes and the 2400 chassis. A 30W-inch 16:9 direct-view tube is featured in two models: the ACO 9303 PB (piano black) and the ACO 9303 S (Stratos Metallic).

The company will “preview” two Aconda monitors using 38W-inch 16:9 tubes, the ACO 9383 PB and ACO 9383 SM. Both will ship in the first half of 2001 at prices to be announced at January CES.

Another 2400 chassis model to debut is the Calida CAL 2323 MB, which features a 4:3 screen and matte black cabinet finish.

Sharp will showcase its digital television line, including two rear-projection widescreen sets and introducing both 50- and 60-inch 4:3 rear-projection sets.

In addition, Sharp will highlight its 60W-inch CG-Silicon rear-projection set, 50W-inch plasma panel and 34W-inch direct-view HDTV-capable televisions.

Also to be shown is a line of LCD televisions with screen sizes ranging from 10-28 inches. Models include 180-channel VHF/UHF/cable tuners and S-video inputs. A 28-inch model adds 720p-native 16:9 HDTV display capability when connected to a digital TV decoder or video playback device.

In laptop DVD players, Sharp will unveil the DV-L77U, featuring a 7-inch widescreen display and the ability to play back DVD-RW recordings. Digital Gamma correction technology maintains color values in dim sections of the picture, and Digital Super Picture Logic enhances picture sharpness.

Theta Digital will show the David II DVD/CD transport, the Carmen DVD/CD transport, and the Casablanca II music and cinema controller. Newly designed audio and video circuits in the David II ($5,000 suggested retail price) can accommodate digital audio with sampling rates of 44.1, 48 and 96 kHz as well as resolutions of 16, 20 and 24 bits.

The video and audio sections are isolated from each other to prevent interference between them and offer an audiophile CD transport and a separate videophile DVD transport in one chassis.

The Carmen DVD/CD transport ($300) will handle digital audio at 44.1, 48, and 96 kHz with resolutions of 16, 20 and 24 bits. In addition, it incorporates an advanced drive mechanism with dual lasers for CD, CD-R, CD-RW and Video CD.

The Casablanca II Music and Cinema Controller ($6,000 to $17,000 suggested retail, depending on configuration) offers improvements in flexibility, performance and ease of use, eliminating the need to choose between audiophile music reproduction and video-based surround sound.

Vidikron of America will unveil its BRS 3800 and BRS 2800 broadcast reference video scalers, and the Epoch D-2200 HDTV-ready LCD front projector.

The Epoch D-2200 ($12,995) is an LCD-based projector that is capable of handling images in 1080i and 720p (HDTV), as well as 480p (SDTV and DVD), 480i (NTSC) and 625i (PAL) formats. Also displayed are most popular computer formats. Three transparent 1.3-inch active-matrix LCD panels are used to deliver resolution of 1,024 x 768.

Video inputs include RGB, component, S-Video and composite. A nine-pin serial connector is used for computer-controlled operation.

The BRS 3800 ($13,995) broadcast reference scaler complements Vidikron’s Vision Series HDTV CRT projectors. Both NTSC and PAL compatible, it outputs at 72Hz to eliminate motion jitter and enable exact frame matching with film sources; while its 60Hz output allows exact frame matching with video sources.

Model BRS 2800 ($8,995) allows direct pixel matching with Plasma, D-ILA, DLP and LCD display systems. It includes six output frequencies.

Yamaha will demonstrate for the first time a single-brand approach to home theater systems that includes prototypes of a high-performance DLP video projector and a programmable LCD touch remote control panel. The new projector features multiple inputs for digital video, including DTV and HDTV sources.

Zenith will show its new top-of the-line CRT-based HDTV-capable front projector PRO1200 ($30,000, September), and preproduction models of a 60W-inch HDTV-capable plasma display, and a one-chip DLP-based front projector (DSV110) optimized for home theater applications.

Also slated is the ZLD15A1 tabletop LCD TV set with built-in NTSC tuner, 15.1 LCD screen and 720p HDTV display capability. The unit will have HD component video inputs for connection to an ATSC set-top box. The unit will ship this month at $1,995 suggested.