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Byline: Michael Rudnick

LAS VEGAS-Window-shopping retailers heading here for the International Consumer Electronics Show will be barraged with new items from popular and emerging categories such as flat-panel televisions, wireless home theater and satellite radio.

Flat-panel and digital televisions will be available at lower prices and will integrate more functions; new interior design-friendly wireless home theater systems will surface; and new manufacturers will seek to jump on the satellite radio bandwagon.

In line with the flat-panel integration trend, LG Electronics USA will launch its first plasma display with a built-in 160 GB hard drive digital video recorder, as earlier reported in HFN. The integration does not stop there, however, as this new plasma will feature memory slots for nine different types of digital memory cards.

RCA is hoping to further the mass-market penetration of digital televisions at CES with a lower-cost digital option to high-definition TVs and enhanced-definition televisions.

"In regards to digital television, there is best (HDTV), better (EDTV), but no `good' category," said Dave Arland, director of worldwide public and trade relations for consumer products at Thomson. "The TVs will not be HD, but will take advantage of digital technology. We want to provide digital TVs for multiple rooms in the home under $2,000." Arland would not provide further specifics on the anticipated digital television line.

The lower-cost flat-panel trend will also be evident at the Pioneer Electronics booth. The consumer electronics manufacturer will avail its PureVision plasma technology to a broader audience by offering a line under the lower-priced Pioneer brand name. At the CEDIA Show earlier this year, Pioneer launched its Elite line of PureVision plasmas targeted to the custom-install crowd. Pioneer will debut four new Purevision plasmas under the more mainstream and less-expensive Pioneer brand at CES.

The new plasma line will include two 43-inch-screen models at $5,500 and two 50-inch models at $7,500. In each screen size, consumers will be given the option of a model with a separate media receiver that allows the customer to connect DVD players, receivers and personal video recorders or a model in which the media receiver is integrated into the set.

"The Pioneer brand is targeted to a more general audience and has wider distribution than the Elite. The Elite features different cosmetics and allows for additional adjustments," said a Pioneer spokesman.

Integration also plays a role in the new Pioneer plasmas, as each features an integrated standard and high-definition tuner and CableCard compatibility.

While mum is the word until the CES opening for Sharp, the electronics company will "focus on expanding into new LCD TV screen sizes, designs and applications," said Bruce Tripido, director of product marketing for digital display devices at Sharp Electronics.

Tripido noted that Sharp will announce entrance into a new audio/video category, declining to specify. While its anyone's guess, plasma televisions might be the next logical step for this LCD market-share leader.

Flat-panel newcomer Syntax is also hopping on the price-compression train, as it is throwing five new, relatively low-cost LCD televisions into the ring at CES: a $1,999, 32-inch, a $2,999, 37-inch, a 42-inch (the price is not yet determined), an $899 26-inch, and is previewing a 55-inch screen model. The price-aggressive manufacturer currently offers 20-, 27- and 30-inch models ranging from $599 to $1,499.

Syntax will also show a 1080p, 61-inch LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) rear-projection television to gauge channel interest. The LCOS category has had a rocky ride this year, highlighted by Intel's decision to drop plans for LCOS chip production.

Brillian, whose LCOS plans were hampered in September when Sears, Roebuck & Co. terminated its agreement to purchase 720p, 65-inch LCOS televisions from the company (as earlier reported in HFN), will show its first 1080p, 65-inch LCOS TV at CES. Rainer Kuhn, vice president of sales and product marketing at Brillian, said that the new higher-resolution model at 21 inches deep is "a couple of inches" slimmer than the previous 720p model.

The satellite radio boom has garnered the interest of audio manufacturers attending CES this year.

Sanyo is jumping into the satellite radio game with a Sirius Satellite Radio Receiver, which will be on display at the show.

Tom Malone, senior vice president at Audiovox, noted that he would like to learn how different manufacturers are approaching this category with home solutions upgradeable to satellite radio. "On the home side, there has been a lag behind. Consumers are crying for (satellite audio), Hi-Fi shelf systems and Hi-Fi boom boxes," he added.

Audiovox is not yet ready with satellite radio plans, however Malone noted that the company may look to create a higher-end shelf system with imbedded satellite radio capability in the near future.

While XM is remaining hush-hush about specific product launches this year at CES, the company plans to focus on continued expansion into the home with products ranging from plug-and-play devices to multizone sophisticated home tuners, said an XM spokesman.

The satellite radio provider, which logged 2.5 million subscribers by the end of the third quarter of this year, expects to end the year with more than 3.1 million -- the final announcement will come at CES.

Retailers looking to satisfy consumer needs for minimal and flexible home theater set-up will find new wireless audio options at CES.

Philips is entering the wireless home audio arena at CES with its WACS700 Wireless Music Center. This self-contained 802.11g Wi-Fi network includes one main media center with 40GB digital audio storage capacity and five satellite stations enabling wireless transfer of music to other rooms. The system allows for the conversion of CDs into MP3 files without a personal computer.

Pioneer is using wireless technology to create surround sound without the need for front-to-rear room wiring. The XW-HT1 relies on a transmitter positioned in the front of the room that sends a 2.4-GHZ non-compressed digital audio signal to a wireless rear speaker. The rear speaker's left and right drivers create a surround-sound experience.

Audiovox will take its first steps into wireless surround sound at the show under its higher-end Acoustic Research brand. The Audiovox system operates under a similar front-to-rear 2.4GHZ transmission system.

"We have a 2.4 GHZ solution that is almost completely immune to interference," said Len Davi, vice president of home entertainment at Audiovox. To prove his point, Audiovox will demonstrate the system in its CES booth alongside a running microwave oven, 2.4 GHZ phone and 802.11g wireless network.

Caption(s): Above: Sanyo is jumping into the satellite radio game with a Sirius Satellite Radio Receiver. / Left: Pioneer will avail its PureVision plasma technology to a wider audience by launching a line under the lower-priced Pioneer brand name.
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Author:Rudnick, Michael
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 3, 2005

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