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Philips does Blu-ray, Ambilight and an MSN Messenger Phone

Philips' CES showing was geared towards next generation AV, with a Blu-ray player and a new version of of its Ambilight TV technology, but it also showed a brand new Skype/MSN/Yahoo phone

Philips pulled off the most elaborate launch of CES so far, with a working Blu-Ray player, gorgeous new Ambilight TV technology and a rather spiffing new VOIP phone. Crave took time out after the event to be given a guided tour of the new technology as most of it was unveiled way ahead of the Spring launch.

Philips' Blu-ray player looks gorgeous, and is set for release in the second half of the year, although Philips was tight-lipped about its price. Like Pioneer, Philips is also ready to release a PC-based Blu-ray drive after July, with the ability to both record to and read from the high-capacity next-gen discs. The company also said that it would be likely to add recording to the commercial player in a few years' time.

The company also showed off the latest version of Ambilight, called Ambilight3. The technology uses fluorescent backlighting that reacts to the on-screen action, and Philips claimed this third generation was developed in response to massive public acclaim for the technology. Philips was keen to show off how well it adapted to on-screen contrast changes during a fast-cutting movie trailer. It's a premium feature to have, and Philips said that this would be reflected in the price, but non-Ambilight options will be made available.

The other new aspect of the next-gen Ambilight technology is called Ambilight Full Surround. As the name suggests, it's 360 degrees of fun, with four strips on each edge of the screen (as seen in the photo). A white-coloured frame adds to the effect. It looks great when the TV is hung up on the wall, and you can customise how much it changes or whether you want the white frame or not. In America, many people claimed that Ambilight didn't look good when hung on dark coloured walls, but with a new frame that incorporates a flat speaker, it was certainly the most gorgeous TV to emerge from a mainstream manufacturer.

At the stand, Crave was one of the first to see Philips' Clear LCD technology in action. The new advancement means that the light behind the LCD panel is able to adapt to individual parts of the image, which Philips promises will eradicate flicker. And with PixelPlus3 HD, it seems like the company is aiming to win the battle of port-manteau. Either way, you'll be able to buy ClearLCD sets this year, and we look forward to seeing how it compares to other flatscreens when it comes in for review.

Philips is also teaming up with MSN to offer a phone that shows your Messenger buddy list, who you can then call over the Internet for free. We'll get more details on UK pricing when we've tracked down the Philips stand.

Visit our CES 2006 Special Report for more coverage.-GC