CES Opening Acts: Samsung, Panasonic, Sony
LAS VEGAS--The Consumer Electronics Show's opening date is yet another departure from the truth in this city of artifice: Many companies get their news out of the way before the show formally opens.
That list could start with Microsoft, which used last night's keynote address to announce the availability of a beta release of Windows 7, its next operating system, as well as a variety of minor upgrades to other products.
But earlier in the day, other vendors did their own part to get a jump on CES.
* Samsung's press conference focused on the same themes I saw in subsequent presentations: environmental efficiency, Web connectivity, and three-dimensional video. The ideas behind the first and third talking points should be easy enough to grasp, but the other demands a few more specifics. In Samsung's case, Web-media access means YouTuibe video clips, Flickr photos and other online fare, courtesy of embedded Yahoo software. This feature builds on the basic Internet connectivity introduced in some 2008 Samsung HDTVs, which can download and display headlines provided by a USA Today RSS feed.
* Panasonic also talked up energy-efficiency, Web media and 3D goals. An upgraded version of its Viera Cast system, to be included on HDTVs and Blu-ray players this year, will provide access to Amazon Video On Demand in addition to YouTube Clips and Picasa photo galleries. The company also unveiled a portable Blu-ray player, the first I've seen. And Panasonic made an especially aggressive pitch for 3D video at home---it invited journalists to watch a highlight reel of 3D clips, which relied on slightly too heavy 3D glasses and sometimes, I thought, caused foreground objects to look momentarily like cardboard cutouts in front of the background. Beforehand, one executive warned that "3D in the home will never truly flower unless we have a national standard"--but didn't drag up the electronics industry's sorry record of failing to agree on common standards for new features.
* Sony, like Samsung, said it would add Yahoo software to its HDTVs and Blu-ray players (LG and Vizio will also join this club) and revealed upcoming developments across a variety of gadgets. For instance, some of its camcorders--but, oddly enough, not cameras---will come with Global Positioning System chips to help locate themselves in unfamiliar settings and geotag recordings and still pictures. It also unveiled a new mini-laptop that it asked attendees not to call a netbook--although the Vaio P Series' use of Windows Vista, $899-and-up price and array of Verizon Wireless 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS capabilities doesn't fit into any usual definition of "netbook."
There will be far more news at CES today, but I'll take a pause this morning to answer your questions in a Web chat, starting at noon Eastern time. I'll talk to you then - or post your comments and questions here.
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