NEW YORK —
Although advances in television technology have been among the dominant themes at International CES for more than a decade, much of the news at this year’s show is expected to shift from the living room to the world at large.
Most of the noise in Las Vegas this January is expected to come from new advances in IP connectivity in many 2012 step-up models, and how online video services and apps will now tie together TVs with handheld smartphones and tablets to further the burgeoning multi-screen entertainment experience.
Expect most of the dominant big-screen brands to push new interactive viewer engagement that links the simultaneous viewing of television programs by communities of friends with program-related socialnetworking chit-chat on tablets and smartphones.
Also expect to hear more news on the rollout of the UltraViolet initiative, which promotes a virtual content locker system that allows consumers to purchase a movie or video program on a Blu-ray Disc (for example) in the traditional way, and also get access to that title via their handheld devices through streaming portals, downloads and digital copies.
International CES will also be the showcase for the launch of next-generation Mobile DTV devices that will now be equipped with back-channel connectivity to allow user authentication for video-on-demand services and viewer metering.
As for the trusty big screen, the nation’s high household penetration rate of digital sets and the still troubling economy has slowed growth and reduced the marketing equation to near commodity status for many brands.
Prices and profit margins are at all-time lows, and most of the innovation now is being applied to larger screen sizes. Expect to see a number of manufacturers unveiling LCD TVs in the 60-inch to 80-inch range this year. But the extent to which TV makers add new bells and whistles will be the differentiator between brands looking to generate profits per SKU and those looking to make money on volume.
Still, several TV makers will begin to position themselves for a digital TV replacement wave, which is expected to hit once the first digital sets purchased by mass consumers start to wear out in the next several years.
Expect to get a glimpse at some new display technologies in the works from several brands, along with further developments in previously shown approaches such as OLED.
Companies including Sony and JVC are also expected to demonstrate their recently unveiled approaches to the so-called 4K video projectors, and Sony might be ready to discuss the status of the first native 4K content and source devices that they hinted at last September.
As for 3DTV, it appears that momentum has shifted to Film Pattern Retarder (passive 3D glasses) approaches for LCD displays. Expect to see more manufacturers announcing sets with passive glasses, including some former active-shutter loyalists.
Active-shutter 3D glasses will still be in force in many higher performing LCD TV models and plasma sets, which lack the brightness levels to make passive systems work effectively.
Expect CES to usher in some new cosmetic styling approaches for plasma, along with lower pricing for 1080p and big-screen models, as manufacturers struggle to sustain sales growth.
The evolution of Google TV will also be an area to watch, as more manufacturers are expected to jump into the market with Internet TV sets carrying the Google TV v.2 OS to compete with Sony’s sets and further the multi-screen viewer experience discussed earlier among Android device users.
The show will also bring new set-top-box-based IPTV approaches, including Blu-ray Disc players with very aggressive price points carrying apps and IP services to help legacy TV set owners connect with the new multi-screen world.