SANDY BERGER: Televisions Take Center Stage at Showcase
You may have heard that the International Consumer Electronic Show (CES), was not as popular as it has been in past years.
But the truth of the matter is that the number of both exhibitors and attendees was slightly less than last year. Yet, with 2,700 exhibitors from 30 product categories -- such as audio, digital imaging, em-bedded technology, digital entertainment, home theater, video, home networking, in-vehicle technology and wireless -- there was no lack of things to see at CES 2009.
As usual, television sets took center stage with thin being the in thing in television technology. The Samsung Luxia LCD television is only a quarter of an inch thick. LG and several manufacturers all showed off televisions less than an inch thick. But how many people care about how slim their television is?
Another technology that is about to hit television is 3D. Sony and several other manufacturers showed off some amazing 3D televisions. Although the pictures were great, you need to wear special 3D glasses to view most of these.
For some of us, this will take us back to our childhood days of paper glasses for viewing 3D movies. These may not be memories that we want to relive. I hope that when they actually come up with a standard on which to base the new 3D televisions, they will nix the glasses.
Purchasing a television is already a pretty complex decision, but what I saw at CES will make it even more difficult. Now there are regular LCDs and LED backlit LCDs. The LED lighting produced better black images and uses less power.
There are also televisions that will be all LED. Sony has an OLED (organic light-emitting diode) television and Toshiba will have a new SED (surface-conduction electron-emitter display). Toshiba also displayed a prototype of the Cell CPU that it plans to use for future televisions.
Along with a set-top box, you will be able to record six HD television shows at one time. Cell TV owners will be able to watch four shows at one time on one television. The Cell TV will also be able to upscale 1080p to 2160p. So we will have another number to worry about.
If you aren't yet confused, there's more. Almost all the television manufacturers have developed their own special technologies for improving and enhancing the displays, and each has made up its own terminology for its technologies. So now you will have to decide if you like Panasonic's "Digital Cinema Color" or Toshiba's "Resolution+" set.
On top of that, almost all manufacturers are moving to Internet-connected televisions. Panasonic will have Viera Cast for Internet content. LG Electronics will have Netflix-enabled televisions. Samsung will have Yahoo! Widgets. Yet each will be different, making choosing a television more difficult than ever before.
There will also be more options in choosing cell phones and digital cameras. Yet, it seems that you can hardly go wrong no matter what you choose in these categories. You will see the cameras in cell phone greatly improved, and touch screens and interfaces are better than ever.
Watch out later this year for the Palm Pre, which is a touch screen phone with a new operating system and great features. It may well be the iPhone killer.
In the digital camera arena, prices continue to tumble as features improve. Casio's new EXLIM models can capture 30 shots per second and allows users to cut and paste moving subjects onto still backgrounds. Olympus has in-camera panorama capabilities that automatically stitch photos together to create a panoramic picture right in the camera. Panasonic introduced a new camcorder with an unbelievable 70x optical zoom.
Although many of the televisions that we saw at CES are yet to be released, most of the digital cameras are already available. While this year's gadgets were not necessarily revolutionary, they certainly were evolutionary. Old products like televisions, cell phones, and digital cameras have many improved features that make them more exciting.
While making a decision on what to buy may be a little more difficult this year, most of us will be able to take our time researching the products that we want to purchase in the future -- as we wait for the recession to play itself out.
Sandy Berger welcomes all of your questions and comments on today's column. Please post them on the Message Board at www.compukiss.com/happycomputing.
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