CES 2009 is officially over, so we can take stock of the major home video trends we saw at the show. The most obvious difference from CES 2008 is that now that HD DVD is dead, Blu-ray dominated the show like never before. While most of the major trends at the show basically matched up with our CES preview, there was one nice surprise that ended up being the Home Video Best of CES category winner.
If you've been confused by all the different Blu-ray profiles, you'll be happy to know that nearly all (tsk, tsk Philips) the players we saw at the show were Profile 2.0 compatible. That means you won't have to worry about buying a Blu-ray player that won't play Internet-enabled BD-Live features. We were also happy to see Blu-ray players with Wi-Fi from both LG and Samsung (via a bundled USB dongle), which also goes a long way toward making it easy for consumers to actually watch BD-Live features without dragging a long Ethernet cable to the living room. Our big miss in terms of predictions was that lack of a $150 Blu-ray player, but don't be surprised if the $200 Vizio VBR100 or Memorex MVBD-2520 hit that price point a few months after they're released.
We also saw Blu-ray break out of the strictly standalone form factor. Panasonic showed off the first portable Blu-ray player, the DMP-B15, although its 3-hour battery life seems pretty constricting. Panasonic had another first with its DMP-BD70V VHS-Blu-ray combination player, and overall we were surprised to learn that VHS still lives. The notable missing product was a U.S.-bound Blu-ray recorder, and we're starting to be skeptical that we'll see one in the first half of 2009. It's also worth noting that we saw Blu-ray built into HDTVs and HTIBs, further signaling that Blu-ray is going mainstream.
Netflix really is everywhere
As expected, we saw plenty of new products with built-in Netflix instant streaming. Blu-ray players from Samsung and LG included the feature, and we saw HDTVs with the functionality built-in too. We were also happy that other online services made their way to Blu-ray players, with LG's BD390 featuring CinemaNow, and YouTube and Samsung's BD-P4600 featuring Pandora.
No $100 Hulu box
Our biggest disappointment of CES 2009 is that there was no "$100 Hulu box." At the CNET offices, we've been talking about the mythical product for quite some time now and basically all we want is a little device that makes it easy to watch all the free online video content on our HDTV. We're still hoping this product shows up sometime in 2009, instead of waiting for CES 2010.
Sling in a DVR: The EchoStar SlingLoaded HD DVR 922
The product we didn't predict wound up winning the Best of CES award for the Home Video category: the EchoStar SlingLoaded HD DVR 922. The Slingbox's biggest weakness has always been that when someone was remotely watching their home TV, it meant the person actually in the room had to watch the same thing. The SlingLoaded HD DVR 922 gets around this by building Sling-functionality into the DVR, allowing someone to watch a program on their phone while someone is watching something else in the living room. It's also worth pointing out that the box has two ATSC tuners, providing an additional two sources for people to tune into. We also really liked the Wi-Fi-enabled LCD display that EchoStar showed, which uses Sling technology to access the 922--toss it in the kitchen or bedroom, and you get another way to access your DVR and TV programming with no pesky wires or boxes. We'll have to do a hands-on review to see how the whole system works in real-world conditions, but needless to say, it's our most anticipated home video product of 2009.