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CES: Size Matters to Panasonic

By : Erik Gruenwedel | Posted: 07 Jan 2008

LAS VEGAS — When sales of Panasonic's 103-inch plasma flat-panel HDTVs topped 3,000 units in 2007, parent Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. apparently decided there was a burgeoning market of consumers who like to sit in the front row at movie theaters.

As opening keynote speaker Jan. 7 at International CES 2008 in Las Vegas, Toshihiro Sakamoto, president of Panasonic AVC Networks Company, seized the opportunity to unveil for the first time the world's largest 150-inch advanced high-definition plasma HDTV.

With four times the resolution of 1080p, the screen was the equivalent to nine 50-inch displays.

“Gives new meaning to reality TV,” Sakamoto joked. “Can you imagine sitting at home watching the [Beijing] Summer Olympics on this baby?”

A shameless plug as Panasonic is a worldwide Olympic sponsor through 2016.

Sakamoto said Panasonic will continue to be bullish on plasma HDTV, introducing four Internet-enabled units with screen sizes from 46 inches, all with 1080p resolution. The 42-inch model uses just half the energy of Panasonic's current models.

The company also unveiled a 50-inch plasma TV just 24.7mm (less than one inch) thick.

In keeping with size fixations and high definition (the latter a common theme at CES), Panasonic sees the HDTV emerging as the “digital hearth” in the 21st century home.

To fill the hearth, Panasonic unveiled HomeBase, a free-standing device that can transmit Blu-ray movies, TV, cable and Web content wirelessly via “beam steering technology” to the HDTV. It will be available to consumers beginning in 2009.

Additional innovations included increased capacity (4GB and 32GB) micro and standard memory cards that can be inserted from the camcorder into the television like a DVD.

Future camcorders and digital cameras from Panasonic will simply be placed atop the HomeBase, their video and picture content wirelessly transmitted to the screen.

Panasonic envisions the TV screen ultimately taking up an entire wall in the home. The so-called “Life Wall” could be adjusted by the user's hand to include virtual pictures, paintings on the wall, a virtual fireplace and window, all the while also offering phone functionality.

“This will help us unite people around the digital hearth,” Sakamoto said.

The company is working with cable provider Comcast Corp., which introduced a portable digital video recorder and DVD player, “AnyPlay,” that allows users to record content and then take the content on the road.

The two companies also unveiled an interactive remote control (“tru2way”) based on open-standard technology executives said is being implemented by other cable providers.

“We think what we are introducing here today will have a tremendous impact on our industry,” said Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast.


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