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Looking Forward to a Dynamic CES

2 Jan, 2005 By: Kurt Indvik

This year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which kicks off Wednesday, Jan. 5, with a pre-show keynote from Microsoft's Bill Gates, will be an interesting one for the home media retailing business. A number of major issues will be in play this year that promise to further the evolution of digital home entertainment.

Probably most important is what the two high definition disc format groups have in mind for this year's event. Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD have back-to-back press events this Thursday that are sure to add fuel to the already fiery format battle being waged. Can we expect to see more content suppliers line up behind the formats? What about Fox, which seems to be leaning toward Blu-ray? Perhaps CES would be a prime venue to make its intentions known. Certainly HD-DVD and its newly-formed HD-DVD Promotion Group will have something up their sleeves, possibly a demonstration of greater hardware support and activity to blunt Blu-ray's rather large contingent of committed manufacturers. I think we can expect to see the salvos start early this year as the two formats race to a probable dual launch at the end of 2005.

Meanwhile, one of the more important trends is the continued development of handheld entertainment. Sony's PSP is expected to make waves this week with a market launch announcement event at CES. After the stunning success of Nintendo's DS handheld player launch earlier in 2004, there is sure to be plenty of talk in the aisles and at the podiums about the great prospects for handheld entertainment, including the playing of movies and other non-game entertainment on these and other devices.

I have attended CES off and on for almost 20 years now, and this year, more than ever, the show seems to have a very cohesive feel to it, as digital technology has become ubiquitous across all entertainment platforms. So many of the technology trends in consumer electronics and home entertainment have the potential for interoperability. So its not surprising that media centers, those devices that can store all our various digital content, and from which we can distribute that entertainment to any combination of players and screens large and small, are going to be front and center at this year's CES. The much-heralded convergence of PC and CE companies all vying for a place in this emerging space will be in full bloom at CES.

It promises to be a dynamic several days in Las Vegas, out of which should come a clearer picture of how the next several years of digital entertainment development will look.

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