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CES Overwhelms With Tech and Policy

LAS VEGAS: Whether it’s FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s plea for “ubiquitous broadband” or the deluge of wide, thin TV sets--some of them using nascent technologies such as crystal LED--the Consumer Electronics Show is delivering its traditional cornucopia of sensory overload. The show--on track for a record-setting crowd exceeding 150,000 (preliminary tallies will be released Friday, the show’s final day)--looks like a breakthrough year. Several new visual display technologies are on display and the growing role of Internet-connected TV sets is, as Genachowski might say, “ubiquitous.”

Legions of broadcast and cable TV executives are on hand. At the Mobile Digital TV Tech Zone Pavilion, about a dozen suppliers of technology and services showed off developments, such as the Dyle package of content optimized for mDTV.

Elsewhere, Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, Canon and others displayed production tools, many aimed at the “pro-sumer” hybrid market, with sufficient quality for the production and distribution of HD video. Voice activation for TV remote controls are in prototype format, some of which are built on Google’s Android technology.

Spectrum overhaul loomed over many CES conference sessions, especially the one-on-one chat between Genachowski and CEA chief Gary Shapiro (pictured above), an ardent advocate of shifting airwaves assignments to non-broadcast uses. To defend has advocacy of incentive spectrum auctions, Genachowski pointed out that New York City has 28 broadcast channels.

“No one thinks 28 is the right number for New York,” he said. “What is the right number? The wonderful part of the incentive auctions is that it will let the market decide.”

Genachowski also touched on unlicensed spectrum, stressing that “everything is connected wirelessly” and hence, “We should work on unleashing more of it,” referring to spectrum. The chairman also repeated his belief that the Communications Act, which governs the regulation of TV and telecom services, should be updated, vowing to help Congress revise the Act, but offering no expectation of imminent action. He concluded by saying that he is proud that his legacy at the FCC will be “that we focused on broadband.”

Meanwhile on the sprawling CES exhibit floor and in countless vendor suite), the focus was on new technology. Among the technologies is Sony’s 55-inch Crystal Light Emitting Diode prototype, which uses LEDs as the light source. The technology uses about 6 million LEDs to create a full HD display, which can been seen at a nearly 180-degree viewing angle. No price or timetable was suggested, and it may be hard to determine whether Sony will focus on this ultra-bright technology or push ahead with its big-screen Organic LED systems. Like LG and others, Sony showed a very large flat-panel LED prototype.

3D is also ubiquitous at CES, despite the tepid market acceptance of 3D TV sets. “No glasses” 3D is on display at Sony, Samsung and other booths. Ultra-thin TV sets are also on display at many booths, with some screens barely 1/8th inch thick--easy for wall mounting even in screen sizes larger than 50 inches.

Internet connected TV--both in the form of video apps and browser-based systems--continues to grow. Samsung says it will bundle up to 1,500 apps globally this year, about four times the number it offered a year ago.

Tablets--with an emphasis on their use as portable media players--also continue to permeate the CES environment, with an estimated 40 new entrants this year. Vizio, which broke through in the low-price flat panel market, is getting raves for its tablets.

Cisco Systems is showing the latest implementation of its Vidoscape suite, which debuted at CES last year. The new version connects set-top boxes to the cloud for distributing interfaces and ’net-centric applications. Cisco unveiled a license with ActiveVideo Networks, a cable-oriented technology provider.

Further CES coverage will appear inTV Technology’s print edition.