CES 2005: Here comes 1080p HD displays

With the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicking off this week in Las Vegas, a handful of pre-show press releases indicate some will introduce 1080p HDTV displays.

To High Definition Technology Update’s knowledge, no broadcaster, cablecaster or satellite provider is delivering high-definition signals in 1080 progressive scan, so it seemed like a good idea to contact one of the manufacturers to ask why.

HDTU chose Brillian, which has played a pioneering role in the development of LCoS microdisplays for consumer applications. As one of the world’s most experienced LCoS manufacturers, with North America’s largest LCoS production facility in Tempe, AZ, the company plans to roll out a 1080p LCoS rear-projection HDTV at the show. HDTU talked with newly appointed senior vice president of sales Bill Fox for some answers.

HDTU: Why is Brillian introducing a 1080p HDTV this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas?

Bill Fox: We believe that 1080p offers consumers the best available HD picture they can get, and ultimately that is what it is all about – the quality of the picture.

HDTU: Although 1080p is specified as an ATSC standard for HD, we’re unaware of any broadcast via terrestrial, satellite or cable in 1080p. Why the decision to roll out a 1080p HDTV solution for consumers?

Fox: There's a great deal of excitement out there on 1080p. HDNet and ESPN are both on record backing 1080p as the best possible format for quality, particularly for fast-action sports scenes, such as those in hockey, baseball and basketball. There certainly are others who don't believe that 1080p will happen due to the increased bandwidth required, but we wanted to provide the consumer with the best image we could. 1080p is it.

Our 1080p platform accepts any HD signal (720p, 1080i, etc.) and converts it to the progressive scan format, ultimately delivering better image quality. But you have to view these platforms as more than a receiver for HDTV content. For Blue Ray and HD-DVD content, which is presented in 1080p, no conversion is required. What’s more, HDTVs often are integrated into IT networks and must support PC inputs and resolutions, which are already capable of exceeding HDTV formats. Ultimately, the more resolution, the better for the consumer.

HDTU: A recent study from IDC finds that consumer resistance to buying HDTV displays – particularly flat panel displays - begins to melt at the $2000 retail price level. Does that match your experience?

Fox: I believe that is a fair assessment for mass consumer appeal, but there is clearly a high-performance segment of the market where price is not the determining factor.

I think the great advantage for consumers, as the HD market grows, is that they have the opportunity to select from a number of technologies to best meet their needs whether they are looking for a cost-effective display solution or a full-featured system.

Right now our focus is toward a relatively high-end home theatre application for our products. And of course, we all know that consumer electronics products rapidly become more affordable as more and more companies adopt a technology and more and more begin manufacturing it. LCoS can certainly compete with the other MD technologies out there.

HDTU: Why the focus on the development of consumer technology based on LCoS technology?

Fox: Brillian was formed from Three-Five Systems, which had extensive display technology experience. Although we have seen a few companies withdraw from LCOS, we have also seen positive momentum. For instance, Sony introduced a 70in rear-projection TV based on its SXRD technology, which is a LCoS product, and JVC is gaining wide acclaim in the consumer press regarding its DILA system – also a LCoS technology.

Our Gen II LCoS technology offers significant competitive advantages, including fast response times, high contrast ratios and high image fidelity. Most of the reviewers who have spent time with LCoS say it clearly offers – in today’s realm – the best opportunity to replicate CRT’s black level, color depth and overall performance for large-screen displays.

HDTU: So despite the setbacks of some others in the LCoS arena, there continues to be interest in the technology?

Fox: We have a number of companies, particularly Japanese companies that have expressed interest in our technology. Consumer electronics companies are constantly looking for a way to differentiate their products from the competition, and our technology offers that differentiation. Retailers are also seeking opportunities to provide consumers with alternatives. We offer products to both retailers and manufacturers. Today, there are great opportunities for companies that can offer consumers solutions that meet their needs. Brand name is becoming a less important element if quality and performance are evident in the product.

HDTU: What impact do you expect this week’s CES to have on broader consumer acceptance of HD?

Fox: After years of talking about HD and enhanced definition (ED) and what will be next, this year at CES there will be a tremendous HDTV buzz. I believe this will be a very, very good year for consumer acceptance of HDTV. This will be the year that some of the confusion (in the minds of consumers) will begin to disappear as they can see for themselves the benefits of HD with a growing high-definition programming lineup and efforts are made to educate consumers about high- definition choices.