CES 2011: The World Might Be Flat After All

This writer thinks it’s possible there will never be flying cars. Every sci-fi writer from Jules Verne to Ray Bradbury and Rod Serling has referenced them for over one hundred years. None of those visionaries considered the astonishingly simple reality upon us now: everything you can think of can be accessed instantly through flat panel devices of all sizes.

Way cooler and less dangerous than flying to the market, now access to the world has been made easier and more elegant with very nice flat devices shown at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in early January.

An interesting landmark — this was the first time an automobile was introduced at CES (the new electric Ford). Attendance was good — but not the most we’ve seen over the years. Numbers such as 125,000 were mentioned.

edit-Panasonic-Sand-Sculpture-at-CES-11-0111Inspired by the now venerable iPad, handheld tablets and Apps (applications) running on Droid, iOS (Apple) and Windows OS were plentiful at the show. Interestingly, traditional PCs and laptops were hard to find. Apps such as Netflix, Hulu TV, Skype, iGugu and YouTube now come for the price of admission in TVs, tablets, Blu-ray players, handhelds and more.

Panasonic featured Viera Connect, a revamping of the company’s existing Viera Cast IPTV platform to become Viera Connect. They have introduced a companion touch screen series called the Viera Tablets which run on Android 2.2 (three sizes – 4”, 7” and 10”). Viera Connect will allow third-party, open source connections to multiple TVs.  Meanwhile, the 152” Panasonic plasma remains the largest TV on the show floor. Panasonic’s beautiful logo sand sculpture in their booth was truly awesome (see photo).

And can TVs get any thinner? The amazingly slim 2.9mm (.11”) OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) sets from LG were the thinnest. Now that’s the TV I imagined in fifth grade when we were told one day TVs would hang on the wall. The biggest size is only 32” at this time, as any larger would not support its own weight, an LG spokesperson told us.

Although industry folks are saying 3D did not sell as well as expected in 2010, many new 3D products were on display. Panasonic introduced five models of point and shoot 3D cameras – some with interchangeable lenses. Sony showed a 3D camcorder with still mode and panorama settings. They also have a 3D Vaio laptop PC which converts 2D content to 3D. This laptop has illuminated keys — long overdue! Sony Vegas Pro is their 3D editing software. Sony rolled out a GoogleTV app built into an Android-based piece.

edit-Viewsonic-DV-projector-0111Both Sony and Viewsonic showed personal camera/projectors. Sony has three models that handle 1900×1080 resolution with 10 lumens and 1500:1 contrast ratio. The Viewsonic handheld camera/projector, called the DVP5 will be $329, is 20 ANSI lumens, shoots up to 65”, has an internal SD card and a 20,000-hour lamp life.

Viewsonic has a line of tablets. 4-inch, 7-inch and two 10-inch tablets operating on MS Windows and/or Android OS. There’s a nice Kensington Qwerty Bluetooth keyboard and a cover are available as accessories for these units.

LG featured a unit called the Pen Touch Multimedia Board that will have applications in the educational market. Shown in a 1×3 array, this system allows one to mark up, grab and move images around the screens. Delivery, pricing and marketing channel of the product are unknown.

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LG, who consistently has had the most impressive booth for the past few years, now has network LCD monitors. Called a zero client device, it allows one PC to talk to and control up to 30 others. Think of it as a computer learning lab — another commercial product being launched at CES. They are running on XP, and claim Win 7 is coming. LG will market this product direct to systems integrators.

Samsung introduced a 60” very narrow bezel display that will find its way into large videowalls. They also launched a handheld remote that runs on iOS (Apple) and Android OS, which can control their line of TVs and offers open source programming for developers.

Samsung also has the world’s largest 3D display at 75”. Their active shutter 3D glasses are now Bluetooth (lighter, better range and performance than first generation IR). Some Samsung LCD displays feature MicroDimming, and are edge lit. Some refresh left to right instead of top to bottom, which enhances precision dimming. They also have announced an alliance with Comcast and Time Warner, within a cloud-based platform allowing accessing content over a network.
Samsung debuted their very cool new SlideUp Qwerty keyboard PC/tablet. It is a hybrid piece which ‘morphs’ from a laptop to a tablet and features 1.5G processor, 2 Gig of RAM, has a 10” screen and of course, unlike the iPad, supports Flash.

edit-Samsung-narrow-bezel-60-inch-LCD-0111Samsung has gotten 1” more viewing area out of their plasmas by using smaller bezels – so this year’s 64” was last year’s 63”. Samsung tells us their plasma business grew last year.

Casio is now shipping the all new 20,000-hour, 3000-lumen GreenSlim projector line. Using a combo LED/laser light source, these projectors will run for years.
Sharp Electronics, a company that showed all its displays against a black wall (more manufacturers should – improves apparent image quality), continues to promote its four  element TVs (red, green, blue and YELLOW) – now called the Quattron series. New 60” and 70” full-array LEDs with local dimming were introduced. Local dimming improves the speed the LCD turns on/off LEDs, improving black levels. Sharp has a cool support service called Aquos Advantage that is like GoToMyPC for your TV – someone can see what your set is doing over the network.

Sharp has a narrow bezel, or mullion, 60” display for the videowall market. It has a $15K list and $13K street price, has four power supplies and features the company’s new Next Generation Quattron engine — 1200 lumen to perfect black range. Next Generation Quattron controls the LED in a pixel-by-pixel method, instead of bulb sectors, dramatically improving quality.

So unlike in past years, the town was manageable, and traffic was okay. The Charleston Mountains were snowcapped and the air was brisk. Smart, interactive, networkable and flat is the way of the new world
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Logan Enright is founder of The Enright Company. He has been in the industry since his first CES in 1977 and remains a passionate follower of technology. Reach him at logan@enrightcompany.com