From CES: Tablets, Connected TVs, Mobile and Content Security Dominate

LAS VEGAS: Cisco’s theme of “Reinventing the TV Experience” not only characterizes the networking company’s push into home electronics but also offers a glimpse into a new view of television, which is rampant at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show.

“What do you wish your TV could do?” asked Cisco CEO John Chambers as he unveiled Videoscape technology, an architecture that connects TVs to the network for triple play and other services, including social networking. Videoscape, a small box that sits alongside the cable set-top-box, offers “infinite sources of content,” Chambers explained, noting that it “recognizes where the highest quality content is available via cable or Internet streams and accesses it for the viewer."

Such converged access capability plus the growing expectation that Internet-delivered content is the future of the TV business permeated CES demonstrations for the largest TV makers. Samsung announced that it now offers more than 300 video apps on its ’net-connected “Smart TV” models and expects to sell ore than 9 million of those sets this year--far more than its forecast for 3D set sales. Like other manufacturers, Samsung has scaled back its 3D sizzle this year.

Several companies demonstrated no-glasses 3D systems and several companies forged the path into lower priced viewing glasses. LG Electronics, for example, will package four pairs of glasses with its 3D sets and sell additional pairs for $20 each.

LG, which also uses the “Smart TV” name for its growing ’net TV lineup, introduced a premium content-sharing solution called “MediaLink,” which gathers appropriate metadata about viewing patterns to “provide a unified experience,” according to an LG executive.

Tim Alessi, LG’s director of new product development, said the company would “continue to partner with content suppliers.”

Wireless and mobile access is a big part of this expansion, with the new tablet devices at the center of CES’s biggest buzz. With more than 80 new iPad competitors around the show--and Apple officially absent as usual from the venue--there are a lot of questions about which companies will survive the tablet wars.

Motorola’s XOOM generated the biggest--and only--“wow” from the audience when Motorola CEO Sanjay Jha unveiled it during a cameo appearance accompanying the Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg’s keynote presentation on Thursday. XOOM’s price and release date have not yet been set. And the wow was actually for a high-quality application using Google Android’s new Honeycomb software for tablets.

Another example of the tablet frenzy is Vizio’s first foray beyond its low-priced flat-panel TV sets into the tablet sector.

While the role of tablets as media access devices is evolving, another approach to mobile video is on the march. Mobile DTV--the broadcast TV version--made several strides at CES.The Open Mobile Video Coalition created a “Mobile DTV Forum,” with equipment-making members such as LG, Samsung, Dell and Harris as technology partners.

Among the tech devices at the OMVC display pavilion is a Tivizen dongle for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices that incorporates an antenna in the dongle. The $99 device will be available this spring.

Content deals are rampant here. Time Warner Cable announced a deal with Sony to make selected content available, using tru2way middleware on Sony Bravia ’net-connected sets. Separately, Yahoo is working with cable and broadcast programmers and advertisers such as ABC, CBS, HSN, Showtime Networks and Ford,to offer enhanced interactive TV features through broadband-connected television sets and other devices.

The content producing industry remains concerned about copyright protection capabilities. Intel unveiled its latest line of chips, the “Insider,” which integrates content security along with video processing capabilities. These second-generation Core processors offer online HD movie protection, and Warner Bros., Fox, Image Entertainment and other studios and distributors, in support of the Intel technology, will soon make content available to devices equipped with Insider.
-- Gary Arlen

Gary Arlen

Gary Arlen, a contributor to Broadcasting & Cable, NextTV and TV Tech, is known for his visionary insights into the convergence of media + telecom + content + technology. His perspectives on public/tech policy, marketing and audience measurement have added to the value of his research and analyses of emerging interactive and broadband services. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the long-time “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports; Gary writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs.