Las Vegas will be packed this week with products ranging from humungous TVs to home entertainment servers, smart cars, portable music and video players, and wireless devices. The 2005 International Consumer Electronics Show will draw over 120,000 attendees and more than 2400 exhibitors.
All the names you'd expect will be at CES – computer giants Microsoft, Intel and Hewlett Packard, exhibiting side by side with such major names in consumer electronics as Sony, Panasonic and Pioneer. Those companies and hundreds more will and compete to capture the imagination of the attendees in hopes of securing some of the consumer electronics industry's $101bn (£54bn) in expected revenue.
With the transition to digital TV looming ever closer, the flat-panel HDTV boom continues apace, with everyone from CE giants Panasonic, Samsung and RCA to newcomers Syntax and Westinghouse Digital unveiling new high-definition LCD and/or plasma TVs. Generally speaking, the sets are getting larger, and prices are coming down. There should be at least a couple of announcements of sets supporting the 1080p ATSC format – up to now, sets have maxed out at 768 rows of pixels.
LG Electronics will be showing off its line of TFT-LCDs for use as TVs, monitors and notebook displays, including a huge 55in high-definition screen. The company will also be demonstrating a prototype Active Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode 20.1in screen that uses low-temperature polysilicon technology. Intended for future TVs, this technology improves on the response time, colour saturation and power consumption of today's screens – all with no backlight.
Projectors for home theatres will also be present and accounted for, ranging from affordable sub-$1000 (£530) models to aspirational deluxe models, such as Vidikron's $29,995 (£15,960) flagship Vision Model 100. The new projector produces 3500 ANSI lumens of light output and its 16:9 wide-aspect ratio makes it great for movie viewing. The company says the unit has been designed to provide a high-quality, high-resolution picture even in rooms with plenty of light.
Audio lovers won't be left out. Along with yards and yards of new receivers, speakers and stereos will be lots of new portable audio players. Shops have had trouble keep Apple's iPod in stock over the Christmas season, demonstrating the huge appetite for the devices, which let you carry around anywhere from a couple of dozen songs to your entire album collection.
Apple clearly owns the lion's share of this market, and as a result you'll see plenty of iPod accessories unveiled at the show. One such item is Nyko's MoviePlayer, which lets the iPod transfer and play movies, videos and photos on a 3.5in 65000-colour screen.
However, there will also be vendors like Rio and iRiver, showing off new players designed to lure buyers away from Apple's popular creations.
You'll also see lots of multimedia portable players, many based on Microsoft's recently released Portable Media Center platform. AMD has announced availability of a new processor designed for this or similar portable entertainment devices, its Alchemy Au1200, which promises low-power consumption with high performance.
It integrates media acceleration hardware and media player software, and does not require a separate digital signal processor. Consumers can expect easier-to-use devices and direct transfer of video content from digital video recorders. AMD will demonstrate reference designs based on this CPU at the show.
Battery power is an essential component in keeping mobile devices available – whether it's to grab a once-in-a-lifetime shot with your digital camera or just to ease your boredom with some tunes from your MP3 player. Good news: new technologies and products being announced at CES should help them recharge quickly and stay running longer.
Sakar touts its new 8.5-minute Supersonic Charger as the world's fastest battery charger. The company says its patent-pending RD4 technology can speed charging by allowing batteries to withstand high current levels. Using the company's own AA cells, you should be able to get a complete charge in 8.5 minutes. The batteries are expected to take up to 1000 recharges, and Sakar claims no memory effect.
In home networking, companies are looking to extend the range of Wi-Fi networks and add new capabilities to network devices. More networking companies are expected to follow the lead of Belkin's Pre-N products and introduce routers and adapters that use MIMO technology. MIMO uses multiple antennae and signals to deliver faster data transfer and greater range.
You can also expect to hear about more – and more versatile – devices for streaming media around the house. D-Link, for instance, expects to announce an intriguing cross between a handheld media player and a streaming device. The portable unit will have a small screen and will be able to store music and video on its 20GB hard drive, but it will also be able to stream music from a PC on your network or from the internet if you have a wireless connection.
D-Link will also show off its new MediaLounge Wireless Media Player with DVD and Flash Card Reader (DSM-320RD). The unit connects to your TV, stereo and other such equipment via standard A/V connectors and hooks up to your home network either wirelessly or via Ethernet, letting you organise and stream digital entertainment from your PC to your living room.
The company claims this is the first digital media player that supports Microsoft's Windows Connect Now software, which promises to ease installation and configuration of connected home entertainment devices. The unit comes with a DVD player and flash card reader, letting it play back movies, MP3s, video CDs, photos stored on flash cards, and more.
ADS Technologies will have a similar device (sans DVD drive and flash card reader) for connecting your entertainment system to your home network and PC to stream content to the living room.
For those eager for a smart home, the place to be will be the NextGen05 Demonstration House exhibit being hosted by Microsoft and Intel. This networked home of the future, powered by Windows, is being set up in the parking lot of the convention centre.
We expect to see new controls for connected homes, such as HAI's Home Control for Windows Media Center. The software is designed to work with Media Center PCs and lets you control such items as lighting, temperature and security for your home from a single remote.
You'll also see new PCs running Windows XP Media Center Edition at CES (such systems have been growing in popularity). Dell even plans to make Media Center Edition its standard operating system. But that's not the only way to create a media centre: Less well-known vendors such as SnapStream Media, CyberLink, and KWorldComputer will offer media enhancements to PCs that do not require Microsoft's Media Center Edition.
Once again at CES, we'll be seeing a shootout between optical storage standards – this time, for the successor to today's wildly popular DVD. The warring factions in this case are two blue-laser based-technologies: Blu-ray Disc, the consortium backed by Sony, Pioneer, HP and others, and HD-DVD , backed by Toshiba and NEC.
Blue-laser technologies pack over 20GB per disc, which we'll need to store high-def programs in all their glory. Each camp will draw lines in the sand, providing their respective timelines for product releases late next year. Already some movie studios have announced support for one format or the other: Universal, Paramount, New Line and Warner are in the HD-DVD camp, while Fox and Sony back Blu-ray.
As with TVs, expect new red-laser DVD recorders to incorporate support for the broadcast flag. The flag must be recognised by TVs, recorders and other such products by July of this year; it tells compatible devices whether and how often a digital broadcast can be copied or transferred. In some cases, you'll need to buy different blank media depending on whether your device recognises the flag or not; the DVD+ Alliance (one of two main competing format camps for standard DVD recording) boasts that their new broadcast-flag-compliant media will work on existing products.
If you want to walk and watch DVDs, Eyetop has a product for you: its new Eyetop DVD, which combines video "glasses" with a portable DVD player in a custom bag. The glasses feature a mini LCD screen attached to the right lens so you can see the movie and avoid people and objects around you.
For more traditional walking and talking with cell phones, look for announcements of better camera phones (2Mp resolution) and more support for high-speed data – for example, EV-DO (Verizon's 3G technology).
The show will also feature new cell phones that integrate GPS systems, possibly letting you know where another another cell phone user is, or the location of a nearby store or gas station. Such services will be add-ons to your cell phone plan, and your provider may work with companies such as Televigation, which will demonstrate its TeleNav service that provides digital maps and information on local services right from your cell phone.
And in the camera world, Konica Minolta adds a high-end model to its Dimage line: the DiMAGE A200. The unit is an 8Mp SLR digital camera and features the company's antishake technology that helps correct for minor movements when you snap off a shot. The unit joins other low-cost SLRs like Canon's pioneering EOS Rebel, Nikon's D70, and new models from Olympus and Pentax.