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Picture This: Consumer Electronics Show 2009

Feb 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer

Size, power usage, and attendance all decrease during tough economic times.

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is year continued last year's trends. Thin flatpanels were even more prevalentMost of the flatpanel news th across product lines, but they did not receive quite the fanfare. Some of the highlights were Samsung's 1.1in.-thick, 50in. prototype plasma and a 0.25in.-thick LCD, as well as a Panasonic 0.33in.-thick PDP prototype. However, several companies now ship panels thinner than 2in.

Are green panels sexier than thin flatpanels? Maybe so if you have a large display infrastructure and you're saving 30 percent to 40 percent on a major electricity bill. Even better, more efficient panels are hitting the market now from several manufacturers. Many — including Panasonic, Hitachi, and LG — had booth displays comparing wattage usage in realtime between this year's panels and those from just a couple of years ago. What's more, the flatpanel display industry, almost as a whole, expressed an even greater commitment to eliminating hazardous materials from within flatpanels, as well as dramatically reducing landfill waste through a variety of reclamation and disposal programs.

Connected displays picked up a little steam, and all the major manufacturers have partnered with content providers such as Yahoo (TV Widgets), The Weather Channel, and others to allow viewers to browse online content directly from the TV. So far, those offerings are fairly limited and represent a minimal subset of the Web. That makes it feel a lot like the mid-1990s, when companies such as AOL were trying to package web content for subscribers. In this case, it's all about avoiding a keyboard or mouse, so content needs to be navigable with just a TV's handheld remote. As in that ill-fated AOL model, that means consumers aren't getting the whole Web. Still, accessing web content on the display directly certainly makes sense as web content proliferates.

Several makers were, as last year, talking wireless displays, although this year companies seemed to be favoring the WirelessHD technology. While several claim that they'll be ready to ship this year, that's been the case for two years. The only technology on sale as of CES was TZero's Ultra Wideband, which is sold as Gefen's Wireless HDMI Extender.

Is 3D ready for serious entertainment? Several companies think so, but none were talking about delivery dates. LG, having previously shown 3D-capable digital signage, offered a prototype LCoS-based 3D projector. Panasonic devoted a section of its booth to a future living room and its new 3D FHD system, which included a 3D-capable plasma display and Blu-ray player showing custom 3D content from Panasonic Hollywood Labs. Sony, in addition to an in-booth 3D demo for its PlayStation 3, rented an entire theater for a live 3D broadcast of the NCAA National Championship football game. It looked great when the action was limited, but fast pans were awkward at best. Still, 3D continues to be billed as the next big thing in displays. Stay tuned.

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