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CES 2009 preview: Home video

CNET editors preview the home video technology to expect during the 2009 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show.

For the last few years, the format war between HD DVD and Blu-ray monopolized home video coverage at CES. Now that HD DVD is dead, we can finally get back to focusing on new technology, rather than which studios are backing which format. Blu-ray should have a big presence, along with its new competitors, Internet-powered video-on-demand boxes.

Blu-ray goes mainstream

Blu-ray isn't just for home theater geeks anymore.
Blu-ray isn't just for home theater geeks anymore.

It's hard to believe, but just one year ago, HD DVD was selling tons of $99 players, Blu-ray players cost an unreasonable $400 or more, and we were advising buyers to hold off going Blu because the format wasn't quite ready yet. Since then, Blu-ray has made huge leaps, with standalone players available for less than $250 and a feeling of inevitability in the consumer electronics world.

That trend is likely to continue, with Blu-ray becoming truly mainstream in 2009. We wouldn't be shocked to see a $150 standalone Blu-ray player announced or home theater systems with built-in Blu-ray hitting the $500-and-below price point.

On the innovation side, we have to imagine we'll see standalone players start including Wi-Fi rather than the standard Ethernet connection. This will make it easier to access not only BD-Live, but also any additional streaming services available, such as Netflix or Pandora streaming. 2009 maybe also be the year we see Blu-ray recorders hit the US, although if the rumors are true prices are likely to pretty high. Less likely, but still possible, would be some early attempts at portable Blu-ray players, allowing you to take your new movie collection on the road.

Netflix is everywhere

The end of 2008 has seen a string of new devices featuring support for Netflix's Instant Streaming functionality, including Blu-ray players, TiVos and even the Xbox360. This year we expect to see the Netflix Instant Streaming logo on nearly everything with a video output, including budget HTIBs and possibly even some DVD players. The biggest announcement in this area would be Netflix announcing substantial deals to get more titles available for streaming, but that's probably unlikely.

The $100 Hulu box

It's become obvious to nearly everyone that one of the next big things in the home video space is finding a way to make online video content easy to access in your living room. Around CNET offices, it's referred to as "the Hulu box" and we fully expect companies to roll out hardware that tries to accomplish this. While the SlingCatcher already does this to some extent, it costs $300--we're more interested in a low-cost ($100) solution, using something like the boxee software to get our internet video fix. We also wouldn't be shocked to see to see existing products like the TiVo HD or Xbox 360 get upgrades in this direction.

Wireless HDMI materializes from the vapor?

In our CES wrap-up blog last year, we speculated that "wireless in-home HD video is getting closer to the mass market." Oops. Aside from Sony's super-expensive DMX-WL1 and Samsung's "wireless plasma", basically all the products we saw last year never came to fruition. Given how little progress was made in making the wireless dream a reality, this prediction is probably more of a wish, but we'll definitely at least see companies promising this technology.