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New LCD-TV Brands, Rear-Projection Advances To Top CES Trends

An explosion in new flat-panel TV brands, ultra-thin micro-device-based HDTV rear-projection sets and a proliferation in DVD and DVR recorders will mark some of the bigger video trends on display at 2004’s International CES.

Although most manufacturers held back product specifics until the show, the mushrooming of new LCD TV suppliers in the weeks leading up to the event was a strong indicator of what many believe is a changing climate for the CE industry. Many of these new suppliers have procured familiar U.S. brands to market their Taiwan- or China-built goods, while larger corporations, such as China’s TCL have taken sizeable equity stakes prominent players including RCA and Go Video.

These factories, which in some cases helped turn DVD players into a virtual commodity market overnight, are now training their sights on LCD and plasma panels.

Meanwhile, established brands, many of which are sourcing goods from Chinese factories themselves, are digging in to defend their ground by focusing on high-performance, and higher-margined goods.

Key flat-panel product trends will include new record screen sizes, and an escalation of displays with integrated ATSC tuners and uni-directional CableCARD plug-and-play capability.

Another early trend will be spotted in the micro-device-based rear-projection TV segment where new technology advances will produce very thin cabinet depths in several companies’ lines. This development will help to position the category as a more direct challenger to the pricier flat-panel category.

More companies are expected to announce the addition of rear projection televisions based on Texas Instruments’ DLP micro-device technology, while a few players will make a push for LCoS-based system as a viable alternative.

Meanwhile, high-definition content will take on a bigger role at the show than in prior years, as cable operators are expected to walk the floors looking for new partnership opportunities with CE retailers. Meanwhile, the new VOOM digital satellite service pioneered by Cablevision sibling Rainbow DBS has its first formal unveiling at the show. VOOM, which launched with a retailing exclusive for Sears, will be looking to expand its distribution with other accounts at the show.

Another trend to look for will be a spate of fully integrated HDTV announcements. Television manufacturers face in July the mandated first phase of a multi-phased implementation to include ATSC digital broadcast tuners in television sets. The first wave will encompass all televisions 13-inches and larger by the end of the year.

A number of manufacturers plan to offer integrated sets that also include uni-direction CableCARD slots to qualify as digital cable ready products. Many of those more advanced models will begin to ship around or just after the middle of the year, to hit the July 1, 2004 deadline that calls for inclusion of ATSC tuners in half of all new televisions measuring 35-inches and larger.

As for DVD, the key trend will be recordability. A host of new decks are promised in both standalone and combination configurations that will offer the recordability of VCRs at prices not far from where VCRs were selling a few years ago.

Also to be featured are next generation high-definition optical disc players and recorders, as members of competing format camps begin their saber rattling.