Consumer Electronics Show — My Day 2
While not a thorough booth-by-booth analysis of the CES show in two days, I nonetheless saw about 80% of what there was to see and got a pretty good feel for the major themes (home theatre was the big story), saw some cool gadgets and learned some things.
LCD, plasma and projection TV’s were everywhere. In fact, Samsung showed “The World’s Largest Plasma TV” in their booth at 102″. Like I talked about in my post below from yesterday’s visit to CES, there seems to be quite a bit of discussion and design around finding ways to hang these TV’s or place them in, on or around furniture. Seems to me a 102″ TV would be a bit dominant in the old family room!
My bride (Michelle Lamb) forecasts trends for the home furnishings industry. While discussing my attending this trade show, she was curious about what the “color story” might be at CES. If you like your consumer electronics in black and silver — you’re all set. There was only one major manufacturer of any kind — Marantz — that was showing a slight variation and it was a champagne color. Though there was color in CD, DVD players as well as a few other offerings (mainly from non-brand Korean vendors), the largest vendors did not show product that was other than black and silver.
There were also stunningly bizarre (or interesting) items from mainstream vendors. Philips showed a wall hung mirror where the lower third was a TV — and when the TV was off the entire piece was a mirror. This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but the video quality was stunning, the mirror nice and shiny, and yet I must admit being completely baffled by it.
As a side note, Philips had a remarkably modest presence at this show…even though this company is one of the largest electronics manufacturer’s in the world and has been instrumental in kick-starting new technologies (like the CD & DVD). Having gone to CES shows back in the late Seventies and Eighties, Philips was always a dominant presence. In a seemingly surprise twist, the Koreans (Samsung, LG, etc.) have vaulted past them and are now in leadership positions in several categories.
Besides home theatre, the networked home was everywhere. Wireless TV, internet, videocams, and more were in most major vendor’s booths. Microsoft and HP were touting their respective media centers, but Microsoft went all out with both booth space and their vision of the ‘connected home’. Their vision, of course, was around the media center…but essentially around anything and everything Microsoft wants to position as ‘cool’. To me, it all seemed pretty forced and very boring.
The last thing that I’ll talk about today in this post is the fun and interesting offerings by Crosley Radio and POLYCONCEPT USA, Inc. These two companies are delivering surprisingly authentic, wonderfully aesthetic recreations of vintage record players, tape recorders, TV’s, juke boxes, telephones, and much more. Kinda brought back memories.
Oh yeah…one more thing. iBiquity Digital had a booth touting their terrestrial HD Radio alternative to XM and SIRIUS satellite radio offerings. After learning more about HD Radio’s footprint in the U.S. (they claim something like 85% of the U.S. population is covered), I was quite intrigued. To read more, there’s a great Crutchfield Advisor article on HD Radio that will explain more.
Will HD Radio kill XM and Sirius? The jury is still out. HD Radio will necessitate people buying new radios. But so does XM and Sirius (or at least add-ons to current in-car systems). XM and Sirius have significantly greater amounts of programming — with no commercials — though you pay a fee. HD Radio is just like today’s radio — commercials pay for the air time though listening is free. We’ll see who wins.
All in all a pretty interesting show and fun to attend.
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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.
HD Radio has some serious shortcomings. Their footprint represents sales figures, not installed HD stations.
HD FM suffers from bitrate issues with quality being somewhat greater than analog, but below CD.
HD AM is simply horrible. It’s bitrate is not enough to convey quality audio without artifacts. Additionally, the IBOC digital signal brings distortion and quality degredation to ordinary AM radios. I would not place any bets on AM digital as it stands to diminish an already reduced AM audience while adding nothing of value.
Ibiquity owns the technology and charges at both ends of the loop. Listeners pay the Ibiquity radio tax and broadcasters pay for equipment and annual license fees, scaled by number of potential listeners. Even though the technology is not similar to streaming, the same sort of licensing is used.
“Ibiquity — Owning radio on the industries own dime”
Given the increased choice of Satellite and high HD radio costs combined with limited coverage, HD has a ways to go yet before it is viable on FM. It will not prove viable on AM.
Doug — Very cogent comments. I didn’t dive in to the technical or business model aspects within my post, but there are your concerns and others.
Ones *I’d* include are equipment-centric. You mentioned install stations but car radios & antennas are two others. These represent key investments required by individuals. If they’re going to invest and/or buy a car with XM, Sirius or HD…they’re going to invest in the most likely winner and the one with critical mass of programming.
Another emerging trend at CES was related to something Delphi showed but didn’t tout to strongly: WiFi-enabling cars and installing media hard drives within them. So you pull in to your garage and the car’s wifi connection interacts with your home PC or media center and pulls off the relevant content to be stored within the car for later playback.
The reason I thought this was cool was the ability to now record & store your subscription programming *or* have a TiVo-like hard drive system that allows scheduling of preferred content via a subscription system. This would be pretty hard to do with terrestrial digital systems.
Found your article while doing some searching on Control4. I am desperaitly looking for more technical info on them. From the looks of their website they are really aiming this product at middle America and stressing the “Easy setup”, which leads me to believe that this is something a do it your selfer like myself would be interested in. Only thing is every dealer I have called has not gotten anything in yet, let alone will say they would sell directly to the end user with out doing the install.
Can you help with some of this?
Greg…I just talked with them at their booth while at CES and also went to their website afterwards. For discovering more (or where to buy), my suggestion is to go the following link and request more info: http://control4.com/company/info-request.htm or to give them a call at: 801.523.3100
Many techies are already there regarding digital content. In a way, having a unit tied to the car is a disadvantage. Given the ready option of portable units (Ipod) and inexpensive and easy to use FM modulators, I’m not sure the expense for a dedicated system would justify it’s expense for a lot of people.
I could be wrong though. Maybe people would pay to just have it all setup and working. Queuing content does have its advantages, particularly when the user can access it randomly. I know my mp3 player and replay TV have changed how I use both radio and TV today. (Nice to get late night mixes for listening to during the day –GO KNRK PORTLAND!) This is something I will be watching with interest –thanks!
Regarding digital content, the IBOC system has some potential here. Imagine every radio having a memory card slot, like the one found on most every digital camera only perhaps a bit easier to use and more rugged. (Like the PS2 memory device / slot)
Listening to stations on a regular basis could net the listener something real, like music files, posters, offers, games, whatever one can put onto digital memory. Trickle the content at a nice slow bitrate and add some redundancy and kids would grok this right away.
Too bad the RIAA and friends fear these new delivery methods too much to actually embrace them. The public would benefit from this, I’m sure. Both the Satellite and terrestrial systems could be doing this today, with very interesting new revenue possibilities for both. Maybe they didn’t think of it (possible), more likely the recording industry has discouraged this kind of thinking to our loss. (Likely)
It’s been a while since my first comment. After hearing some samples, HD will not be HD by any measure on either AM or FM. FM IBOC HD appears to be fairly benign, so its rollout will be tolerated. Not sure it will ever hit critical mass, but it appears quite viable.
On AM it’s horrible to both existing radios and HD radios alike. Just not enough bits to convey the quality promised. I know I said this once already, but having heard samples and discussion on the matter, it was worth reaffirming this. AM is going to be further marginalized before this mess is over. Sadly, Ibiquity refuses to license any use of their tech that does not cover AM.
There is more to dislike about their business model than a first glance would indicate. (No real check on their fee structure or policy decisions that affect general public interest.)
Interestingly, the deployment costs are quite high with annual fees to the station. (Based on number of potential listeners !?!) An AM station can expect to put out maybe $150K or so, depending on their equipment at hand.
If the combined monies for all these conversions were put into a combination of legislation of receiver standards (AM mostly), thoughtful regulation aimed at cleaning up the band, and promotional activities and incentives, the results would likely be favorable to everyone involved, sans the collateral damage AM IBOC will cause.
Was curious about this aspect of things. Purchased an AM Stereo tuner and was impressed with what I heard. Compared to a watery and harsh compressed bit stream, AM Stereo is a very decent experience. One worth reconsideration, given many of the technical issues have already been hashed out and equipment is inexpensive and available today.
As I posted earlier, where is the value add for anyone but Ibiquity?
Also noteworthy: Ibiquity has refused testing against analog AM stereo. After hearing it on my unit, I now know why. AM Stereo sounds good! Hmmm…
Radio needs to work hard at generating content hard to get elsewhere while at the same time leveraging it’s local nature and robust technology. Analog is not as sexy as digital is, but it can be done well on the cheap and has a far greater tolerance for error than digital technologies do.
Some stations, around the nation, are already working toward this end. Local content, DJ’s being allowed to bring in home collections and mixes, indie music and more can be woven together to provide a very localized community full of synergy. All of this drives revenue through the station and a lot of it is what people actually expect from radio.
To sum this long and late rant up:
Radio does not have fundemental technology issues. (Well AM does, but we solved them only to hose the deal with poor leadership that can be addressed today.) It has content and image issues. Those are problems that can be solved for far less than a less than stellar technology rollout with better results to boot.
People who gripe about the am iboc quality should consider what a miracle it is to broadcast ANYTHING digital over the am band. The sound is already better than a poor person’s analog fm radio could ever be, and in some ways is a close cousin to cd-quality sound!!