MY CES JOURNAL
Photos powered by Olympus
FRIDAY, JANUARY 7
Kudos to CNET for throwing one of the classiest trade-show parties I've attended. Last night's Ghost Bar event was a welcome addition to the Backstage Pass activities. As this is the last day of our blogs, I must thank CNET for hosting us in such style at CES 2005.
Now, back to the floor. Sporting a hangover after last night's shindig, I went in search of my video subjects. As soon as the overworked CNET staff get to it, you will see interesting footage of Dwin Electronics
, and the Sonance Iport
. All have very cool products on display.
As promised, here are some notes on this year's media servers and home automation devices. There are tons of new technologies that are focused on convergence between home theater, computing, and control systems. Time will tell which players are able to capture market share in this space, but in the meantime, everyone is throwing their hat into the ring.
Microsoft is taking on all challengers with their Windows Media PC, including Windows Media High Definition Video. While I think Microsoft opened people's minds to the need for these products, I don't think they are capable of developing something that has the robust potential of a more customized product. They showed nothing new at CES, and I think other players will soon show the real power of innovation and hopefully leave Microsoft in the dust.
One of those players is a company called Control4
. These guys are taking a stab at the traditional home-control space currently dominated by AMX and Crestron. I know that these companies may not be familiar to many CNET readers; because their products are so expensive, they only appeal to millionaires. Well, Control4 is gonna change that. They offer the first true IP-based home-control system that works over a mesh network.
What this means is that every light switch, thermostat, fireplace control, audio point, touch screen, and keypad in your house will further extend and enhance your network. Each device talks to the other, creating a mesh over your entire home. The result is a reliable, inexpensive way to have the home of the future now. And
you can easily retrofit any house with this stuff. It's not just for remodels and new construction. As someone who lives and breathes this stuff in my job, I am not easily impressed. But Control4 has something incredibly unique and robust to offer.
The other devices that caught my attention were focused on music management and distribution. These days, everyone appreciates the benefit of storing and organizing their music on a hard drive. A handful of companies have new products to extend the concept a bit further.
and Meda Systems
have created products that let you elegantly organize your music and distribute it through your home with exceptional onscreen displays. The Sonos product has some slick hardware that finds any music on your personal computer and streams it out to multiple access points in your home.
Meda System's Bravo is the hands-down winner for interface design and functionality. They offer servers with multiple outputs, so you can have different streams of music in multiple zones of your home. They also allow you to control everything via your own Pocket PC with Wi-Fi.
Lastly, I received some great news from the folks at the Gracenote booth. They have further enhanced the CDDB behind-the-scenes music-cataloging software to include intuitive playlist generation based upon complex criteria and analysis. What this means to us is that I could take any song from my archive and ask my iPod (assuming Steve Jobs likes the new Gracenote products) to create a playlist around that particular song. Surprisingly, this really works, and the Gracenote "musicologists" have done a stellar job in classifying their catalog.
So I hope you have enjoyed my coverage. Again, thanks to CNET (shameless plug follows). If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and want to tap my expertise and experience to build your own home theater or automated home, visit Entertaining Spaces
THURSDAY, JANUARY 6
This morning I was properly juiced up on Krispy Kremes, wearing my comfortable walking shoes, and ready to hit the floor of CES 2005. My goal is to share with you the hottest things coming from the home-theater and TV world this year. This means that I will probably gloss over any technologies on display that have been around for a year or more. My space is limited, and there is a lot to share.
Definitive Technologies Mythos Gem satellite speakers
Toshiba's HD-DVD recorder
Philips shows off Blu-ray DVD
LG's monster 71-inch plasma
In the audio world, Definitive Technologies was showing their outstanding new Mythos Gem satellite speakers. If you are looking for a well-priced, unobtrusive speaker, pick these up (and for the love of God, please put down the Bose). As I listened to these, paired with their SuperCube subwoofer, I couldn't believe the sound wasn't coming from the large floor-standing speakers next to them. They also have a cool under-the-plasma speaker, which has left, center, and right drivers all in one slick cabinet.
I was looking for something saucy in the video realm, and I found it in the brand-spanking-new 1080p DLP chip by Texas Instruments. Holy high-def, Batman! A few manufacturers had 1080p rear-projection sets on display, including Samsung, Mitsubishi, and LG. TI expects the first models to ship in April. This means that true high definition is finally here! 1080p is the benchmark standard for the next generation of HD products.
Of course, you're gonna want some fries with that big burger. Luckily, the high-definition DVD wars are officially under way. Blu-ray DVD was featured in a number of booths, including Sony and Phillips. The HD-DVD consortium showed a few prototype players in its own booth. It all looks amazing, and I can't wait until I can replace my movie collection yet again. Expect ship dates "some time this year." With all the buildup to these, it's about time we started seeing some product!!
Voom seems to be maturing into a respectable player in the satellite game. Its HD-laden channel lineup looks more and more appealing, while the major networks and satellite and cable providers drag their butts to give us more of the good stuff. No revelations here--but I think it's time for us all to start looking seriously at Voom.
LG is everywhere with its 71-inch Überplasma. Not much to be said here--just a big flat screen. For the money, I'd probably sell my clients a $10,000 Dwin front projector and a $3,000 110-inch motorized Stewart screen. That would save $12,000 with a bigger picture and better image quality, though you would need to have total light control in the room.
Tomorrow, I am excited to be shooting videos of a number of these technologies. I will focus tomorrow's blog on media servers and home-automation products.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 6
My mission at CES 2005 is twofold. I own a custom home-theater design and installation business, Entertaining Spaces, so I am naturally seeking new gear to offer my clients. But more importantly, I just bought a new home in San Francisco and am excited about tricking it out with the latest gadgets! At last I get to be my own client.
I've been asked by CNET to keep notes on home-theater and video products at CES. I already know that Sonance (http://www.sonance.com/) is finally shipping the amazing Iport, which should draw some attention. Iport is a custom installation product that allows you to flush-mount an iPod in your wall, power it up, and connect it to any audio distribution system with just a single Cat-5 wire. I got one of the first batches, and almost everyone who sees it wants one.
Moreover, I predict that 2005 will be the year of the hard drive in-home theater. Convergence products that bring the computing world closer to the high-end audio/video experience should finally start to make inroads. Last year's clunky interfaces should start to emerge into elegant, easy-to-navigate, feature-rich products. I'll be keeping my eye out for the best of the home-theater PCs.