CES 2009, day 3: So what does the future hold?
It's the last day here at CES, and I've walked many miles through the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Centre (not easy as I currently have a broken metatarsal bone in my left foot!).
The show is drawing to a close, and now we've seen what all the major consumer electronics manufacturers have in store for 2009 and beyond, what does the future hold for home entertainment? Here's my personal take on some of the key themes that have emerged at this year's show:
Deeply impressive, although likely to be expensive when Panasonic launches its first set next year. It remains to be seen if people will feel comfortable sitting in front of their TV screens at home wearing a large pair of dark glasses, but having seen the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 3D HD I'm hooked.
One note of caution: The Blu-ray Disc Association says it is still evaluating the various different 3D HDTV technolgies before deciding which one to back. Please let's not have another format war and stifle this one at birth.
Put simply, this has to happen. It solves at a stroke the main objection to home cinema – too many cables. The ability to stream uncompressed, full HD 1080p video from your media receiver or Blu-ray player is genius – and I've seen it working.
One caveat: the US industry has decided on 60Ghz for Wireless HD, but we've yet to discover if this frequency will be available and work in the UK.
Wireless surround sound
The final piece of the jigsaw to make home cinema fully wireless. THX's development of its high-definition Roomcaster technology is hugely impressive. Bring it on!
Sales are clearly on an upward curve, and hardware prices continue to fall, although it will still be quite some time before it overtakes DVD. The advantages of high-definition picture and sound are obvious, but I remain a touch sceptical about the benefits of BD-Live content.
The price of software has to come down, and hardware manufacturers really must sort out compatibility issues between Profile 1.0 and Profile 2.0 players.
The web is such an integral part of our lives these days, it makes sense to make it accessible wherever you are: in the lounge, at your PC or on the move.
Panasonic's Viera Cast system, which will be available in its 2009 Viera TVs and Blu-ray players, is a clear sign of what's to come. It won't be long before we take it for granted that we can access the web on TV just as we do on a PC now.
And with the likes of the BBC iPlayer, CinemaNow and Amazon's video-on-demand service making so much more content available online, watching it on your telly will become the norm.
LED TV backlighting
Clearly the way forward for flatscreen TVs, with enhanced picture quality. More and more manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon, and it's clear this will become a major feature of new sets in 2009, along with 200Hz (or more) picture processing and ever-thinner screens.
Lots of prototypes in evidence here at CES from the likes of Sony and Samsung. I can see the benefits, but the cost is still prohibitive. I reckon it could still be a few years yet before this technology becomes affordable enough to hit mainstream.
But it's ideal for small screens, such as that on Sony's new X-Series Walkman.
Everyone's going Green
Eco-friendly products are all the rage this year, with manufacturers tripping over themselves to claim their latest models are more energy efficient than ever.
Panasonic, for example, claims its new Neo PDP Eco plasma panels can deliver the same brightness as its 2007 models, but using a third of the power. And even if they increase the brightness threefold, power consumption remains at '07 levels.
With the cost of energy rising, and the recession biting, consumers will demand more energy-efficient products. This one's a no-brainer.