Parks Associates Blog

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Quick Highlights from CES

The question that we we hear most often after the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is “What did you see that was interesting or ‘cool’?” It’s not an easy question to answer. The press coverage of the show lends itself to pictures and video of huge televisions, tiny mobile handsets, and strange-looking devices (robots, for example). For Parks Associates, however, it’s not necessarily what we see that provides the greatest insight; it’s what we hear during demonstrations and briefings with companies that clue us into some interesting developments. And, every year, we tend to hear much about incremental improvements to devices and services, including (but not limited to) home networks, mobile communications, broadband-related services, digital entertainment, television-related applications, gaming, home systems and controls, and consumer electronics.

I honestly didn't have time to take in the 108-inch television on display at the show, as I was typically running from one meeting to another. However, I had some really interesting meetings with about 40 different companies. Below are some quick highlights of some of the key takeways that I had from the show:

  • Eventually (if not quite soon), the home network will need to support HDMI transmission, meaning uncompressed high-definition video. This is for both quality reasons as well as for protecting the content (uncompressed HD content doesn’t fall through the “analog hole.”
  • Related to this point, I'm wondering how soon a "wireless for HDMI" solution will hit the market. There is certainly plenty of buzz surrounding companies such as AMIMON, TZero, and the WirelessHD Consortium.
  • Ultra-wideband (UWB) commercial products are coming this year and next. Companies were showing different form factors and implementations of the wireless. They have all kinds of form factors (PCMCIA, etc.) for cable replacement and wireless USB applications.
  • The powerline debates continue. My colleague Michael Cai hosted a panel on powerline networking, and it's clear that there is little love lost between HomePlug and the proprietary powerline networking solutions. DS2 has some customers who speak highly of the technology's capability. This year will be a critical one for HomePlug to get large volumes of its HomePlug AV solutions out to market.
  • It was interesting to hear Scientific-Atlanta talk about using OpenCable’s Linux and Java tools to incorporate Flikr and YouTube applications into the “walled garden.” The operators may likely be the real beneficiary of OpenCable in this respect. Obviously, retail availability of set-tops via CableCARD (another OpenCable part) is going to happen, but I think the key will be helping STB developers more rapidly incorporate the emerging content, services, and applications that the wider Web is going to bring.
  • Continued “behind the scenes” talk about how the home network/digital home is going to be managed, and who will be the primary beneficiary of improved broadband and home network management tools. I hosted a panel discussion titled "Business Models for Managing the Digital Home," and we had representatives from Enure, Motive, HiWired, Linksys-Cisco, and Network Streaming to discuss the important elements of digital home management. Another panel on which I spoke ("The State of Home Networking") included this topic as well. Other companies in the space that I saw at CES included Affinegy, Bsecure (demonstrating at the D-Link booth), Cisco (their recent acquisition of RG software vendor Ashley-Laurent), Jungo/NDS, Network Magic, Nexort, and Peak8. I anticipate that 2007 is going to be a significant year in seeing more agreements formed between these vendors and new customers, including broadband service providers, home network equipment vendors, and consumer electronics companies.

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