At the annual CEDIA Expo held recently in Denver, the audio video industry showcased the products that will be in homes across America and around the world in the coming months. Actually, not a lot of new and exciting products were introduced. Most of the new products shown were basically minimal upgrades of existing technologies. Still, CEDIA managed to draw over 29,000 people to the four day expo - the highest attendance ever for the event.
Of course, the Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD war was the biggest topic on the minds of people at CEDIA. (Check out my earlier post on the most recent developments regarding the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD battle here.) While audio manufacturers like Marantz and Denon showed new Blu-Ray machines at CEDIA (both with $1995 price tags), a number of audio manufacturers are still waiting to see which way the wind is going to blow in regard to who will have the upper hand in the format war. Or, they're waiting for lower priced dual-format transports to become available.
Flat panel televisions continued to be the rage on the expo floor with a number of companies showing new products for the upcoming fall and holiday selling season. Many manufacturers (and retailers) are hoping for more stable pricing and better profits during the last four months of the year compared to last year's price wars that erupted around Thanksgiving.
Panasonic showed a number of new lower priced plasma monitors that had fewer features than some of their previous models. I checked out the new Pioneer Kuro plasma displays and they looked stunning. But I'm still a fan of the Samsung televisions. Their plasmas and LCD units looked great, and their new DLP projection screens are using LCD technology, making the bulb and the color wheel in the old DLP units obsolete.
3-D was a big draw at CEDIA. A number of companies showed monitors capable of projecting three dimensional images on screen, primarily for gaming or motion pictures. I didn't really look closely at the 3-D displays, I'm a little turned off by the 3-D experience after working with a Canadian company by the name of Sensio for a couple three years. We were distributing it in North America until things went a little sour and we were stuck with some old technology that Sensio refused to upgrade. Long story short, we no longer distribute Sensio.
Anyway, 3-D capable monitors seemed to be the hot "new" thing to show at CEDIA. The only problem is that most of the 3-D capable monitors were very high priced and out of the range of most consumers. It's my experience that 3-D is neat for the first few times someone sees it, but after that it's "OK, what else is on?"
Home automation is still one of the main components of the show. More companies are beginning to incorporate lighting, security and whole house audio/video control into nice little packages. They're still pretty expensive, but the problematic factor that plagued the control industry has gone down in recent years making the controllers easier to program and use.
Convergence units that combine downloading of music and movies via the Internet were also shown at the CEDIA Expo. Apple TV was among the first to address this, but others were showing new models at CEDIA. Antex showed their multi-zone Sirius or XM digital tuner. Inteset displayed their Denzel TP420 combination cable and HD tuner along with an 750 gig hard drive unit to store movies, pictures, music and other media. And my friend, Brad Paulsen, helped unveil the new Sooloos music server, the most unique music server I've ever encountered. Sooloos is pricey - $12,000 for the unit and the music to download into it is extra. But it was pretty damn cool with its touchscreen menu system and high quality sound.
All in all, there wasn't any major breakthroughs of technology at this year's CEDIA Expo. Products are always improving, but the steps seem to be smaller than some of the technological giant leaps we've seen in the past few years. Still, it's a fun business to be part of and it's always fun to go to a show like this and to be able to look into the future of home electronics.