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The Ramblings of a Damaged Mind
Home, home again
So, I'm home. Clearly, I made it home from Logan last night without crashing. It was a near thing at times, I was *really* exhausted. I was short on sleep, and then, instead of landing at 22:50, we didn't land until around 02:20. So it was a longer day than I was expecting, and tiring. Since I was sleep deprived all week at CES, I was really running on fumes by yesterday. Driving home was a bit rough. I got home, unpacked my bag, and collapsed into bed. It was nice to be back in my own bed again.

CES was fun, as always. This year I didn't see as much of the show as in the past - mostly because I'm over that. My first year there I felt like I had to see *everything*, and I ran myself ragged. This was my fourth year in a row and now I pick what I'm going to look at and plan my day around that. Then I casually wander in what time I have left and look for things that catch my eye. But partly it was the extreme pain that kept me from wandering as much.

I always start out with TiVo, since that's the main draw for me. They had some cool stuff, which I posted about in tivolovers, of course. And there will be more to come. This year the other things I was really interested in catching were Sling Media, Digeo/Moxi, HD-DVD, and Blu-ray Disc.

I've held off buying a Slingbox because of two missing features - a PalmOS client and a SlingCatcher, and they announced both of them at this CES. The SlingCatcher is a hardware Sling client that you can connect to another TV. Previously you needed to use Slingplayer on a PC or a supported portable device. Not so convenient to access the Slingbox from another TV. With the SlingCatcher I can put one in my room and access my A/V stack in the living room remotely. The PalmOS client is officially only for the Treo 700p as that has 3G network support (EV-DO). The 650 & 680 are limited to EDGE, which is slower. There is not yet a PalmOS Treo with UMTS/HSDPA support for GSM networks. Since I have a 650 I asked about it at their booth. I was told the 680 will work, unofficially, but the 650 will not work. Though it may be marginal, and you'll need a solid EDGE connection with a decent data rate for it to work at all. I'm not sure why the 680 would work while the 650 wouldn't. They're pretty much the same thing - the 680 just has a new design and more RAM for app storage. But the screen, CPU, network support, etc, is the same as far as I know. I talked to them about testing the SlingCatcher and PalmOS client, and it looks like I may have that chance. So I'll probably be picking up a Slingbox Pro to do that. I'll try it on my 650. If it doesn't work, I might upgrade to a 680. Hopefully I'll be hearing from them soon. And big thanks to Dave Zatz, of zatznotfunny, for putting in a good word for me.

I wasn't very impressed by what Digeo/Moxi had to say - OK, not impressed at all. Everything in their booth was smoke & mirrors - mock-ups, hollow shells, etc. They still haven't finalized hardware specs on the boxes they'll be bringing to retail in the second half of 2007. There seemed to be a lot of things which are planned or anticipated, but not a lot that was solid. I think competition for the TiVo Series3 is good, it will keep TiVo innovating and on their toes, but I think Moxi is going to have a huge up-hill struggle to carve out a niche in the retail DVR market. They really should've done it years ago, but they dropped their retail plans to focus on licensing to cable MSOs - which has been largely unsuccessful, with only ~400,000 systems deployed after a few years of effort. I won't be surprised if the new TiVo software for cable boxes has more than that by the end of this year. Anyway, I posted about this in TiVoLovers. I'll certainly be keeping an eye on what they do over the course of the year, and what they finally launch. I hope the final product is more impressive.

As for HD-DVD and Blu-ray - I remain convinced that Blu-ray will eventually crush HD-DVD out of the market. The HD-DVD group was making a lot of hay over having 175,000 players sold and 160 titles on the market. But they had many months to build a lead before BD hit the market. By the end of the year BD had 120 titles, with a faster pace of new titles. So BD should have more titles soon, and maintain the lead once they do. And HD-DVD only has more players if you don't count the PS3 - which has already sold over one million units. Sony still says they'll sell 4 to 6 million PS3s by April, and probably 10 million by the end of the year. The PS3 alone will sell more units than all HD-DVD, and BD, systems together. And standalone BD systems are now available, with more systems being added, and prices will be coming down. There are still five studios that are exclusively BD, and only one (Universal) that is exclusively HD-DVD, with Warner and Paramount on the fence, supporting both for now.

LG announced a $1200 player that will support both - but now it looks like it may never ship. They planned full support for BD, but only basic playback for HD-DVD. They would not be supporting HDi, the interactive features for HD-DVD menus, extras, etc. But the DVD Forum is challenging them, since HDi is mandatory for HD-DVD. So they're claiming that LG cannot use the HD-DVD logo or claim HD-DVD support unless they support HDi. Microsoft is apparently pissy too, since they developed HDi with Toshiba. On the other side, Time Warner announced a new 'Total HD' disc which supports both HD-DVD and BD on one disc. But it only makes sense for them and Paramount, the only studios supporting both formats. If Universal used it - game over. Once they support BD in any fashion, then ALL studios support BD, so there would be no point in anyone buying HD-DVD and missing out on the BD exclusive studios. If either side lost all of their exclusive studios, then they'd lose their biggest lever in the fight. On the other side, none of the Sony studios are ever going to support HD-DVD, and Fox and Disney have reiterated that they support BD and have no plans to support HD-DVD, and feel that the best resolution to the war is for HD-DVD to leave the market.

And it really is - because the alternatives seem to be HD-DVD dying, or dealing with two formats forever. Since Sony controls movie studios and hardware, and they've committed to BD on the PS3, they're not going to drop it. With more of the content and hardware makers behind BD, it is less likely to die. Producing Total HD is more expensive - since you basically make both formats and glue them back to back. Plus consumers have never really liked flippy discs, as they're harder to handle and don't have any nice labels. It also means no DVD/HD-DVD hybrid discs - as they're flippys too. And it would eliminate the possibility of a BD/DVD flippy, though BD has demonstrated a single-sided BD/DVD hybrid with the BD data 'over' the DVD layers. That hasn't been commercialized though. I supposed you could do that, then but HD-DVD on the other side, and have all three. But the multi-format discs will always cost more than a single-format disc, meaning higher prices for you and me. It is better all around for one format to win and then volume will drive prices down.

I find this whole format war highly annoying, and I think it is really hurting adoption as many people wait. But the PS3 should help that somewhat, as people are buying the PS3 anyway and once they have it in their home, then they can use it for BD movies in HD. A Trojan horse to boost adoption of the format. If MS updated the Xbox 360 to include an HD-DVD drive standard, it might help, but they already missed the early adopter rush for the platform. I'm mostly pissed at Toshiba for causing the war by pushing HD-DVD.

So, other than that, there were the usual giant TVs - the big news this show was a 108" LCD. Eh, I've kind of gotten over the huge TV thing. They're just publicity stunts, not commercialized. Though if you were a millionaire I'm sure you could get one custom. The largest LCD from the show that will be sold is a 70" LCD from Sony, which should be out in April - for *$33,000*. Yeah, I'll pass. :-)

Otherwise, the one standout that sticks in my mind is the new AVCHD camera from Panasonic. There are two models that are pretty much identical - except one records to 8cm DVDs and the other uses SDHC cards. I think the SDHC model is cooler. They record in 1080i using MPEG-4 AVC/H.264. You get about 60 minutes on a 4GB SDHC card, or 40 minutes on a DVD-R. And there are already 8GB SDHC cards out - with 16GB and 32GB cards shown at the show, and likely out this year. They have 12x optical zoom and optical image stabilization, and they're light and small. It also records 5.1 audio - and the coolest feature, IMHO, is audio zoom. Just above the lens is an array of 5 microphones in a cross. Via a combination of directional mics and audio processing, the camera can eliminate sounds and actually zoom in the sound with the video. They had demos of footage shot with the camera and it was really cool. One was a small waterfall. When zoomed out you heard the echo of the waterfall noise off the surrounding rocks, etc. But as the camera zoomed in on the waterfall the sound narrowed until you just heard the water on the rocks and it was like you had walked up close to the waterfall. Very nifty. The downside is that the camera will cost $1499 when it ships - but I'll have to wait for the price to drop before I consider getting one.

There were innumerable toys, gadgets, and gizmos, many of them were cool, but most of them didn't really personally interest me. Or I just couldn't see affording them, or how they could be practical for me.

Oh yeah, so the pain thing. Well, you may recall that I posted in the past about having plantar fasciitis in my left foot. It had mostly cleared up for a while, of course, the week before CES, it flared up again. Even with the 800mg ibuprofen, all of the walking at CES really aggravated it. So I spent a lot of time with stabbing pain in my left foot, which made me walk with a limp. It screwed up my walking enough to make my lower back pissy, and I'd get this hot, burning, stabbing pain in my lower left back. It felt like a hot knife. And the pain from my foot would slowly spread up my leg over the course of the day. So, yeah, that was less than pleasant. Fortunately, I have a ridiculously high pain threshold so I could get into a rhythm and tune it out. Though I contributed to my breaking into a sweat, even when it wasn't that warm. I'm sure my being badly out of shape didn't help there, but just walking around didn't used to do that to me. Well, anyway, it did slow down my wandering and cut down on the time I spent walking the show because I'd just need to get off my feet. I thought about renting one of those scooter things, but I couldn't bring myself to do that while I could still get around under my own power. It just felt too lazy. My foot is still a bit sore, I'm hoping that clears up some with a bit of rest. I'm sure not sleeping enough, and therefore not giving my body the time to recover, contributed.

Well, all in all, I enjoyed CES and I'll probably be back next year again.

Tags: , , , , , ,
Current Location: 42.30894N 71.79531W
I am: tired tired
Current Media: TiVo: Trinity Blood

mackys From: mackys Date: January 14th, 2007 11:27 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
Sony still says they'll sell 4 to 6 million PS3s by April,

Total crack smoking. I've been talking to game store owners and watching EBay... owners are saying that they can't make the PS3s move, and the price of PS3's on EBay has gone slightly *below* MSRP. Wiis, by contrast, can't be kept in stock longer than a day. The market has spoken, and the verdict for this month and likely next is unequivocal: PS3 is goin' nowhere fast.

and probably 10 million by the end of the year.

If they publish some good games, this is just on the edge of theoretically possible. If ten A-list titles came out in Q1, the PS3 could make up for lost time. I'd love to be wrong, and who knows, Sony might remember that "it's the games, stupid!"... but I'm not holding my breath.

After a third extended session with Gears Of War, and looking toward Halo 3, uber-Microsoft-hater me is seriously thinking that his next console is going to *gulp* be an Xbox360.

Did you see any SED or OLED TVs?
zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: January 14th, 2007 11:45 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
There weren't any SED TVs at the show. There were going to be, but a lawsuit kept them away. Sony had some small OLED prototypes but I managed to miss them and heard about them later, and never got back to their booth to look at them. Apparently they looked pretty good and were extremely thin. A couple of 11" screens and one 27" IIRC.
mechaman From: mechaman Date: January 14th, 2007 01:18 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
Total crack smoking. I've been talking to game store owners and watching EBay... owners are saying that they can't make the PS3s move, and the price of PS3's on EBay has gone slightly *below* MSRP. Wiis, by contrast, can't be kept in stock longer than a day. The market has spoken, and the verdict for this month and likely next is unequivocal: PS3 is goin' nowhere fast.

Pretty much what's happening, yeah. And the games truly ARE lackluster, aside from some full platform games. And while I love Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, that ain't your system seller. Glad I have my Wii, and am having as much fun with what it _came_ with as with as much as the other games I got.

The other problem with both formats, is honestly, the 'early adopter' period is going to be much longer than some other techs. At the very least 2-3 years more, perhaps, because with HD not really penetrating as much yet, there's no real drive. Hell, I'm looking at one on the cheap end of spectrum and am still "turned away" for paying 2x-3x the cost for the same basic size (not ratio, but literal screen siza area) for a widescreen 1080i/720p as for my current 480i component tube.
mackys From: mackys Date: January 15th, 2007 02:15 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
And the games truly ARE lackluster, aside from some full platform games.

I think that Descent: Fall Of Man is a pretty good FPS. I haven't gotten far into it, only maybe a couple of hours, but it's only slightly less good than Gears Of War in my opinion, and Gears sets a very high standard.

Other than that though... Eesh, Sony! Remember "it's about the games, stupid!" They made the exact same mistake (no games) with the PSP. I can't believe they're making the same ones again with the PS3. The best hardware in the world (which the PSP is, and the PS3 arguably is) does you no good if you have no games!
pdelahanty From: pdelahanty Date: January 14th, 2007 05:01 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
I'm rooting for Blu-Ray and had high hopes for the PS3, but it has seriously underperformed. Even if most of the stores are currently sold out of them, they're not selling out fast anymore. In fact, I've been in several stores that had 60Gb PS3s in stock. (I still haven't seen a Wii in stock.)

I was hoping that Apple would release BD in Macs at Macworld, but instead Jobs spent all his time with Apple TV and the iPhone. iDisappointed. (My Series 2 TiVo already does 2/3rds of what Apple TV does and the iPhone is way too expensive.) The Mac lineup needs an update soon, so hopefully it won't be much longer. BD as standard in the Intel Macs would be pretty sweet. I suspect they're just waiting until iLife '07 so they can announce BD Macs and updated iMovie/iDVD software at the same time.
weaktwos From: weaktwos Date: January 14th, 2007 05:21 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
You make some very interesting cases with regard to BD vs. HD DVD, but Porn will not be showing up on BD.

Granted, a lot of porn is available on torrents, etc. But the masses may want cool porn on the big screen, and not worry about transferring that data from the computer to the tv. Of course, if porn studios just make their pornos available to download, people with the AppleTV and the like can pull it off their boxes...
zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: January 14th, 2007 10:08 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
There is *already* porn on BD. The rumors of Sony blocking porn on BD are total bogus. Porn has been out on BD in Japan for a while now, and there is no policy blocking it anywhere. One provider in the US, Digital Playground IIRC, said they put out HD-DVD because they couldn't get BD pressed and blamed Sony. But then another Playground rep stated that they never actually heard it was due to Sony and they haven't heard back from Sony directly yet. Since the few BD plants are working hard to press the mainstream titles it is much more likely that they simply didn't do the porn because there isn't excess capacity at this time. There are 7 studios doing BD and 3 doing HD-DVD. Since HD-DVD does have the advantage of using existing DVD presses, it is easier to find capacity.
weaktwos From: weaktwos Date: January 14th, 2007 11:48 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
That's fascinating if this is a publicity stunt on the part of HD-DVD. It's also interesting that Sony isn't taking time to challenge it at this time, instead only forums seem to have the blu-ray supporter making the claims you are.
z_gryphon From: z_gryphon Date: January 14th, 2007 11:52 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
They're probably too busy dominating the universe to bother.
weaktwos From: weaktwos Date: January 15th, 2007 05:37 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
I don't know. The Wii appears to have sold more consoles than the playstation last year. So the entire universe isn't dominated by the ps3.
zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: January 15th, 2007 05:38 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
No, but the PS2 is still selling more than any other console. ;-)
weaktwos From: weaktwos Date: January 15th, 2007 05:41 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
Are you talking about in the US or worldwide?
zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: January 15th, 2007 05:42 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
US I think, not sure, I just saw figures at the end of the year that put the PS2 ahead of all the next-gen consoles.
weaktwos From: weaktwos Date: January 15th, 2007 05:48 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
Oh...I misread that as ps3. The Ps2 has been around for like 6 years, though, right? Kinda hard to compare. Though yes, they are still selling those units. Likely because the old ps2s are burning out, and the ps3 wasn't in stock. ;-)

But when it comes to new consoles, the Ps3 isn't' quite doing so hot.
zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: January 15th, 2007 06:29 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
Not that it has more out - but that the PS2 is still selling more new units than the other consoles. So even if the PS3 isn't a megahit, Sony is still dominating the gaming market with the PS2 & PS3 together.

While some stores are starting to see slowdowns in PS3 sales and aren't out of stock, some of that is from Sony ramping up production and shipping more units to the market. At CES Sony said sales are still on track, we'll see how it goes.
From: bramsmits Date: January 15th, 2007 10:17 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
Just reading this piece which would suggest a preference for hddvd by the porn industry because it's cheaper to press. We'll see. After all, Sony also controlled Betamax, and I haven't seen much evidence that they learned from past mistakes.

As to the big screen TV's, I think it's nearing an evolutionary dead end. I'm sure they'll be around for a long time, but there are limits to what's still transportable and affordable, yield issues during production, breakage, and power consumption (especially for plasmas).

I'm really waiting for someone to come out with a semi-affordable high-res projector. I've already got a 75" picture, and having a pull-down screen it doesn't cost me wallspace when in use. That whole setup cost me less than a grand, and an hour or two to mount and wire it. Now I want it upgraded from 1024*768 to something reasonable.
theshinster From: theshinster Date: January 14th, 2007 08:53 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
I hate format wars... :p but something
interesting happened a few days ago when
adult-movie industry 'standardized' to HD-DVD.
Could make BluRay another Betamax... (-_-)

zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: January 14th, 2007 10:11 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
Don't believe the rumors. The report of the adult industry moving to HD-DVD is bullshit. One vendor claimed Sony blocked them and wouldn't allow porn on BD - but there is *already* porn on BD and Sony has no such policy that anyone knows about. Later another rep from the same adult vendor stated that they had no evidence it was really Sony or just why they couldn't get press time for BD - the first statement was an assumption, but it got picked up by Slashdot, etc, and reported as 'fact'.