Week in review: On land and Ceatec

For gadgeteers, the place to be this week was at Japan's consumer-technology showcase. Back home it was all HP.

Michelle Meyers
Michelle Meyers wrote and edited CNET News stories from 2005 to 2020 and is now a contributor to CNET.
Michelle Meyers
6 min read
If you're a gadget lover, the place to be this week was Tokyo, where next-generation DVD technology and TVs dominated the annual Ceatec consumer-technology showcase.

Japan's answer to the Consumer Electronics Show in the United States, the weeklong Ceatec (Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies) show, ending Saturday, offered sneak peaks at products ranging from an ultra-high-definition monitor to robots for aiding the elderly or disabled to technology that enhances the visual qualities of old movies.

Sharp captivated showgoers with its 64-inch LCD monitor that provides screen resolution four times that of normal high-definition screens. Normal HD screens have 2 million pixel points. The new Sharp monitor sports 4,096-by-2,160 pixel-line resolution--double the number of vertical and horizontal pixel lines offered by a normal HD screen. This comes out to almost 9 million pixel points.

Hitachi will try to come out with a video camera with a built-in Blu-ray burner in one to two years, said Hiroto Yamauchi, general manager of storage products marketing at Hitachi. Sony and Panasonic announced Blu-ray players that can also record shows, while Toshiba, the leader of the competing HD DVD camp, also showed off its home player-recorder.

But don't go looking for these products locally. The Hitachi camcorder has a long development schedule. And although the manufacturers behind the Blu-ray and HD DVD technologies don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues, there is one thing that they agree on: They don't want to sell high-definition recorders in the United States.

That news was disappointing to some CNET News.com readers. Others, like Mark Doiron, warned that they better not wait too long to release these recorders in the States.

"The availability of DVRs, Windows Media/Vista PCs with monster hard drives, and broadband delivery of HD movies on demand (for saving to those DVRs and TiVos) is going to kill off the HD DVD/Blu-Ray markets," he wrote.

Another reader, "Racassano," added that the emergence of two competing formats is only going to slow the acceptance of HD, "as people like me cannot afford to pick the 'wrong' format. We hold off, sometimes for years, before we see a dominant player we can trust will be around. I'm old enough to remember the 8-track days and a similar fight."

Also at the show, Matsushita Electric Industrial, which sells products under the Panasonic name in the U.S., made it clear that it wants to build robots, but they won't be household pets this time.

The Japanese consumer electronics giant is experimenting with ways to bring to market two prototype robots that can help the elderly or people with disabilities, company President Fumio Ohtsubo said at the show, which actually is taking place just outside Tokyo.

In other Ceatec news, Toshiba CEO Atsutoshi Nishida said during a keynote that his company is working to come out with hard drives based on patterned media that could replace perpendicular drives in a few years.

In pattern media drives, the magnetic material is segmented into independent points through imprint lithography. By separating the bits, the danger of one bit corrupting its neighbor is reduced.

Toshiba plans new 55-inch televisions using a technology--surface-conduction electron-emitter display, or SED--that it says will provide better performance at a price competitive with liquid crystal displays and plasma units.

In other gadget news, engineers, manufacturers and analysts gathered in San Diego for the Society for Information Display's first-ever conference devoted solely to mobile displays. With an ever-increasing demand for mobile displays to go into cell phones, iPods, digital cameras, navigation devices and more, display makers are innovating quickly--and the numbers show it.

HP and the other drama
California's attorney general filed felony criminal charges on Wednesday against former Hewlett-Packard Chairman Patricia Dunn and four others in connection with the company's internal probe into boardroom leaks to the news media.

"One of our state's most venerable corporate institutions lost its way as its board sought to find out who leaked confidential company information to the press," Attorney General Bill Lockyer said at a press conference. "In this misguided effort, people inside and outside HP violated privacy rights and broke state law."

The others charged were Kevin T. Hunsaker, HP's former senior lawyer; Ronald DeLia, a private detective; Matthew DePante, of data-brokering company Action Research Group; and Bryan Wagner, a Colorado man believed to have been an employee of Action Research, according to the filing in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

The five face four felony charges: fraudulent wire communications, wrongful use of computer data, identity theft, and conspiracy to commit those three crimes.

Dunn surrendered on Thursday, appearing at Santa Clara County Superior Court. She was booked and released on her own recognizance pending a Nov. 17 arraignment.

Dunn may not have known what "pretexting" meant, but she personally provided to HP's outside investigators the telephone numbers of reporters whose phone records were accessed without their permission, it was revealed this week.

Public documents show that Dunn provided the home, office and cell phone numbers of two BusinessWeek reporters to DeLia, the operator of Security Outsourcing Solutions, which was hired by HP to conduct a hunt for boardroom leaks.

News.com readers appeared mixed on where to point fingers in the HP scandal. Some feel the press should take some of the blame.

"HP may have been wrong but please let those who stole or who published stolen information be punished also," one reader wrote in response to a related story.

Others vehemently disagreeed: "The press has a right and obligation to publish information no matter who agrees, approves, likes or dislikes. It is not a responsibility of the press to protect any information or preserve HP's profits or place in the market," reader Stan Johnson said.

In other boardroom imbroglios this week, an investigation by a special committee of Apple Computer's board found irregularities with stock option grants made between 1997 and 2002, the company said in a statement. The investigation started about three months ago. Following the probe, Fred Anderson, who served as Apple's chief financial officer from 1996 until 2004, resigned from his seat on Apple's board, the Cupertino, Calif., company said.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs, in a few instances, was aware that favorable grant dates had been selected, Apple said in its statement. "But he did not receive or otherwise benefit from these grants and was unaware of the accounting implications," the company said.

Also resigning this week, on a different matter, was Massachusetts Chief Information Officer Louis Gutierrez, who blasted the state for halting spending on the commonwealth's ongoing technology initiatives.

Rep. Mark Foley, a vocal proponent of safeguards for children on the Internet, also stepped down this week after leaked e-mail and chat transcripts appeared to show he engaged in sexually explicit discussions with minors.

And yet another security drama arose this week when a hacker who claimed to have found a serious zero-day bug in Firefox later said he was never able to exploit the supposed vulnerability to hijack computers.

Also of note
Microsoft plans new technology in Vista to lock users of pirated software out of their PCs...Yahoo's warning of a slump in ad sales has startled economy watchers...IBM warms to social networking...Google Code Search lets programmers search code for software-writing tips...Sony announced its own battery recall...A study finds MySpace.com is drawing 'older' visitors...Hollywood bashes media consolidation...IBM acquisitions bulk up Tivoli line.