CES NEWS: Panasonic reveals the 'digital hearth' - and says the HD format war is over

Here in Britain we may struggle to find somewhere to put the telly in a room with a traditional fireplace, but Panasonic sees the TV as the 'digital hearth' for the 21st Century: the place where the whole family gathers, just as they used to huddle around the fire.

That's the view of Toshihiro Sakamoto, president of Panasonic's AVC Networks company, giving a keynote speech at CES on Monday. And in an interview with US trade magazine TWICE, he also thanked Warner Bros for hastening the end of the HD video format war, which he says is already done and dusted back home in Japan.

Sakamoto's company is responsible for consumer electronics and PCs within Panasonic, si it's not surprise that there was a focus on the marrying of the two technologies.

He sees the TV as the family gathering point in the future, and not just for conventional broadcasts or movies on disc. During the speech he announced an interactive system developed with US cable operator Comcast, which will be built into TVs and operated by a single remote. But there will also be a detachable box, the |Comcast AnyPlay, which can store content for playback in remote locations - or even in the car!

Another innovation announced was VieraCast, jointly launched by Sakamoto and Steve Chen, one of the founders of YouTube. VieraCast is an internet TV (IPTV) system, allowing simple access to YouTube and Picasa video and picture albums.

The company is also working on wireless HD transmission systems for home networks.

In common with other manufacturers, Panasonic has super-thin screens in development: Sakamoto announced one less that 25mm, or 1in, thick. But there's emphasis on big TVs, too: the 150in advanced HD screen was also shown.

The elephant in the room? Sakamoto with the 150in plasma

The 150in screen, previewed here at the weekend, is more than just a big telly - it may be a precursor of the next step in HD television. It has a resolution of 4096x2160 pixels, or in other words four times that of current Full HD displays, and this is known to be a resolution some broadcasters, including Japan's NHK,, are investigating.

Finally, Sakamoto gave an interview to the daily CES newspaper published by trade magazine This Week In Consumer Electronics, or TWICE. Asked for this reaction to the Warner Bros announcement about switching to Blu-ray exclusivity for HD releases, he was unequivocal in his response.

"We appreciate and welcome their decision," he said. "This will accelerate the end of the format competition. In Japan that competition has already been completed."

Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.