A somewhat different take on this year's CES. Instead of marveling about hand-held videos, Rick is noticing the emergence of more walled gardens. I agree more with this view. As to integrating the web with your home entertainment system, that's not so hard to achieve even now, and there are several ways of doing this. Even if it it means working around the impediments the CE and PC vendors put in your way. Bert ----------------------------- CE's fiefdom mentality Rick Merritt (01/16/2006 9:00 AM EST) URL: http://www.eetimes.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=3D177100126 The entertainment industry looked like the Old Europe at the Consumer Electronics Show. Rather than strike bold alliances to push toward a better world, each aging fiefdom tended to its own small garden. This industry needs to embrace the Internet, a small set of interoperable home-networking standards and a universal managed-copy architecture - and then get on with the business of creating really cool products and services for the digital living room. The $60 billion cable TV industry took a small step forward by agreeing to deploy a Java-based middleware layer so that anyone can write applications on their networks (see Jan. 9, page 1). But when we asked the gathered execs whether they were developing a browser, their blank stares seemed to say "What? You mean connect my network to the Internet?" Hey, it's only the single biggest application in the universe. This Web thing looks like it really might take off. Instead of live presentations of new Web video search engines or services that grab data from live digital TV streams, we watched a canned demo that consisted of three applets: an electronic program guide, parental controls and pay-per-view. I've got most of that on my cable box now, so what's new? The new bit is that cable companies are making a minimal response to an FCC mandate for greater openness. Some, such as Comcast, are working with OEMs like Panasonic to create Java apps that simplify the transition to high definition. In the Web era, HD must look like a real differentiator to a cableco, but I think their marketing departments are a tad out of touch with reality. I suppose a few videophiles would love to reduce the number of remotes and displays they must navigate to switch on their HDTV home theater. But a whole lot more people are interested in bridging the gaping gulf between their TV and PC networks so they can get all those MP3 files, digital pictures and Web resources flowing to their quality TVs and stereos. That's the real digital living room. Meanwhile, a handful of satellite TV players clustered around the properties of Rupert Murdoch's media empire announced advances in copy protection (see story, page 16). Their Secure Video Processor Alliance (SVPA) will help upgrade chips so that managed copies of content delivered to a satellite TV set-top can be made to hard drives, DVD recorders and portable players. That's a step forward, but one that so far has no public participation from the cable TV industry or much of anyone else outside the ecosystem of News Corp. I don't blame the SVPA - which seems to be delivering something useful and is open to sharing it - as much as the rest of the industry and its not-invented-here attitude. Motorola Broadband and Scientific-Atlanta, that goes double for you. It goes treble for Apple and Microsoft. Pretty much the entire entertainment industry is trying to hammer out a way for any digital rights management system to talk to any other DRM, so content can flow freely between any two devices. The work of the Coral Consortium sounds like exactly what consumers would want. So how come the makers of the iPod and Windows won't join? The France and Britain of the electronics industry think they are ecosystems unto themselves. While we wait for them to join the rest of us, I suggest makers of all other MP3 players unite to define a standard interface to enable a world of low-cost Internet stereos, boom boxes and docking stations. That might shake up things in Cupertino, if not Redmond. Like their brethren in cable, most of the old-line consumer electronics companies see high definition as their last bastion of proprietary - i.e., highly profitable - technology in an age of open standards like the Web. So it's no surprise they are starting to beat themselves about the head with competing Blu-ray and HD-DVD formats. At a CES press conference announcing the company's first HD-DVD products, a Toshiba marketing director explained why we need HD-DVD. Sales of existing DVD players are slowing, as are sales of prerecorded DVD movies, she explained. That is a crying shame for OEMs and Hollywood, but take a look at what consumers are bringing home. According to the Consumer Electronics Association's own numbers, sales of flash memory, blank DVD-R media and personal video recorders are booming. That's because the real next-generation format is taking off, and it is not a supersized optical disk. It's the Internet, stupid! Ironically, Toshiba is using the Web as the linchpin in its marketing program for HD-DVD. No doubt that will spread the word a whole lot faster than putting it out on HD-DVD disks, which will probably occupy a very small corner of the larger Blockbuster outlets for the next year. Surprisingly, I credit Hollywood studios with one of the few bright ideas I heard at CES. With its Blu-ray titles, Disney will take "the two worlds of movies and interactivity and blend them into one experience that rivals videogames," promised Disney exec Bob Chapek, the president of Buena Vista Home Entertainment. "The benefits [of Blu-ray] go well beyond HD to a whole new medium." That's something I will be watching for this year. The other thing I want to see won't arrive until 2007's CES: the Network Aquos, Sharp's concept for a flat-screen TV with built-in home networking and Web browsing. Like the Disney interactive movie, the Sharp Web TV will probably be better as a concept than in its final delivery. The Network Aquos will use HomePlug AV, one of about four competing power line technologies for home networking. How well it works with products geared for Wi-Fi or networking over coax or phone lines remains to be seen. You also have to wonder whether it will use the downloadable conditional-access security in the cablecos' Java middleware or the SVP technology of the satellite-TV world. There's a long and winding road to the vision of interoperable consumer products that can plug into any network and share premium content with any other device. If CES is where we look for such a device, the show will have a life longer than its notorious cab lines. -Rick Merritt (rbmerritt@xxxxxxx), editor at-large for EE Times All material on this site Copyright 2006 CMP Media LLC. All rights reserved. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- You can UNSUBSCRIBE from the OpenDTV list in two ways: - Using the UNSUBSCRIBE command in your user configuration settings at FreeLists.org - By sending a message to: opendtv-request@xxxxxxxxxxxxx with the word unsubscribe in the subject line.