Las Vegas -- Digital technology will take an increasing
role in home entertainment in the new millennium, according to a handful of top television
manufacturers here on the eve of last week's Consumer Electronics Show.
Thomson Multimedia, Sony Corp., Philips Consumer
Electronics Co., Panasonic Consumer Electronics and Toshiba America Consumer Products
unveiled new high-definition televisions sets and set-top receivers at press conferences
here last Wednesday, with pledges to move HDTV consumer momentum forward in 2000.
Toshiba director of product management Scott Ramirez
predicted that the U.S. television industry would sell 400,000 HDTV-ready televisions this
To help jump-start sales, Thomson plans to introduce
integrated HDTV sets/receivers at prices about one-half those of their 1999 counterparts.
The company set midyear launches for a 38-inch RCA model (F38210) at $3,999 suggested
retail, as well as a 34-inch ProScan model (PS3400) at $3,499.
"Some people think the only thing we want to do is
sell $10,000 TV sets," Thomson senior vice president Michael O'Hara said.
Thomson also plans to equip its new HDTV models with
component video inputs so that they can connect with HDTV-capable digital-cable boxes
later in the year, according to O'Hara.
O'Hara admitted that "there are some potholes" in
the road to mass-market acceptance of HDTV, and more progress needs to be made on digital
copy protection so that cable customers can enjoy the benefits of HDTV. He added that
Thomson supports what it calls the "XCA" copy-protection standard.
Sony, on the other hand, endorsed the "5C"
copy-protection standard widely supported by cable.
Sony senior vice president of television and digital media
Vic Pacor said the company would soon ship 3 million digital-cable boxes to Cablevision
Systems Corp. with the company's "I-LINK" digital connections, which uses 5-C
The company also plans to introduce a DirecTV Inc. receiver
with I-LINK connections this year. The six new HDTV sets it plans to debut in 2000 are all
I-LINK- and 5C-compliant.
Thomson also said at the show that it has partnered with
CBS Corp. to deliver the NCAA men's Final Four college-basketball games in HDTV.
In partnership with Geocast Network Systems Inc., Thomson
hopes to give digital broadcasters something else to deliver with their digital-television
Thomson is developing for introduction next year a new
Geocast receiver to hook up to a PC that could deliver a 19-megabit-per-second digital
bitstream filled with data at the same time a broadcaster sends out an HDTV picture. The
data bitstream would be cached on the receiver's hard drive for instant access.
New Geocast CEO James Ramo said Geocast is looking at a
range of content, especially short-form video geared to the shorter attention spans of PC