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PMPs, High-Definition Discs, Flat TV To Mark CES

In many ways, the 2005 International CES will revisit strong themes in video technologies that were evident a year ago.

The industry continues to witness a major expansion in flat-panel TV companies (both LCD and plasma), as established players adjust and expand lines and screen-size selections. This year is expected to bring a broad range for LCD and plasma TVs featuring fully integrated ATSC tuning, digital CableCARD capability and entry price points that are moving closer and closer to mainstream markets.

This year, most products in screen sizes 30W-inches and over will also incorporate digital ATSC tuners to keep pace with the Federal Communications Commission’s DTV tuner mandate. However, in order to go after a more affordable price point, some vendors have elected to leave out analog tuning in order to avoid having to comply with the digital tuner mandate.

Also look for more of the high-end panels to offer 1920 by 1080p (one of the highest high-definition levels available) native resolution as manufacturers begin to seed the market with displays that will be able to maximize the full capability of next generation high-definition optical discs.

Although HD DVD and Blu-ray decks and players aren’t expected to reach market until late in 2005 or 2006, they will be capable of emitting 1080p signals, if hollywood studios, as expected, elect to encode discs with that capability.

On the next-generation optical disc front, CES is expected to be a battleground for a brewing format war, which was touched off in the days preceding the show, when hollywood studios split the market by lining up behind one of the two systems.

Another hot television segment to be showcased at CES will come from more makes and models of micro-device-based rear-projection HDTVs, with emphasis on smaller, more elegantly styled cabinets.

Texas Instruments will again showcase the large stable of manufacturer partners who have implemented its Digital Micromirror Devices in new rear- and front-projection TVs, but a few surprises were expected to come from new players adding Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) displays, and perhaps rejuvenating a technology that has been bloodied by recent defections.

New designs in trusty CRT-tube sets were slated to emerge from several players. These improvements promise significantly slimmed-down cabinet depths that give consumers less-expensive options to flat-panel TVs.

At the same time, manufacturers looking ahead to the next phase of the tuner mandate are preparing to offer conventional analog standard-definition (480i) TV displays with built-in ATSC tuning, establishing a new entry point for DTV adoption.

Another trend at the show will come from an onslaught of personal multimedia players (PMPs), which offer video enthusiasts the convenience that ignited popular music-only iPod players.

Also watch for new broadband video delivery services to make appearances, offering convenient new video downloading options, which will soon be applied to the aforementioned PMPs and other devices.