Tech Industry

Home theater preview

CNET shares its predictions about what new home theater trends its expects to see at CES 2011.

Streaming video was huge in 2010 and we expect even more products at CES 2011.

2010 has ended with a flurry of activity in the streaming video space, with Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee, Roku, and others introducing new or updated products. We expect that CES 2011 will continue the move toward streaming video content, with a few other new trends.

Streaming video take center stage
Not that we ever doubted it, but streaming video is the future of home theater. Blu-ray will always be available for videophiles, but services like Netflix, Vudu, Amazon VOD, Hulu Plus, and iTunes are more affordable and extremely convenient. While Netflix is already available on nearly every device, we're betting that devices will offer a wider range of streaming services--especially Hulu Plus, which is only available on a few products so far. We're also betting there will be more products aimed at trying to capture all of the freely available Web video content you can see on your browser--a la Google TV--and we're interested to see if anyone, including Google, can easily solve what seems to be like an increasingly insurmountable hurdle. And speaking of Google TV, while we initially thought it would have a big presence at the show, it looks like Google may be downplaying the service at CES while it continues to refine it.

3D gets cheap
Manufacturers made a big push for 3D this year, even though there was barely any content for early adopters to watch. Companies will be making the same push for 3D this year, promising much more content, but 3D compatibility will likely be more of a standard feature this year, rather than pricey a step-up. Midrange Blu-ray players will almost certainly have 3D (Sony's BDP-S570 already had 3D this year), and we wouldn't be surprised to see 3D included even on entry-level players.

Apple's AirPlay standard may be best known for its ability to "fling" video from an iOS device (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) to an Apple TV, but it also AirPlay-certified devices to stream music directly from iOS devices. We don't want to get our hopes up, but we'd love to see AirPlay compatibility including on a wide range of home theater products, from AV receivers to Blu-ray players to sound bars. Even better, AirPlay compatibility plus Bluetooth audio streaming would cover audio streaming from the majority of smartphones on the market.

More cheap sound bars
Sound bars have been around for a while now, but in 2010 there were more affordable models than we've ever seen. We expect this market to continue to expand, with even more products integrating even more features, including new features like AirPlay, Audio Return Channel support, and built-in Blu-ray players.