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One cannot appreciate the enormity of this exhibition except in person. This was my fortieth CES – the first being in 1965 at the old American Hotel in NYC, called the EIA Convention at that time. Then as a young engineer with RCA, I was awestruck by two full floors of products – one floor with radio, phonograph and audio tape products and the other with television – mostly black and white models. Now, the CES occupies several square miles of Las Vegas convention space exhibiting and hosting presentations relative to all types of electronics products competing in the ever hungrier world-wide consumer electronics marketplace. But one factor remains the same as in 1965: television is the king. Video products continue to drive the industry whether they are display or content source products. Perhaps this is not true when measured in raw unit numbers but certainly it is true when measured by the only metric that counts – industry margin dollars.

This is the year of the true commercial introduction of 3DTV. At CES 3D was ubiquitous and good. We can discuss the minutia of the technical differences in the various 3DTV display technologies until the earth sets, but the fact remains that the 3D feature is so compelling, that, by next year, TV displays without 3D capability will be severely discounted. No doubt, issues remain (see my December 2009 article, HD 3DTV: The Tasks Ahead), but one of them will not be 3D content with DirecTV, ESPN and Discovery among others announcing various 3D content partnerships and programming schedules starting this year.

The large overriding issue that came into focus at CES2010 is the potential impact to the CE industry of the pending FCC’s articulation of a National Broadband Policy. Expected in March, the objective of the proposed policy is to ensure affordable broadband internet service to all US citizens. Incumbent in the formation of the overall policy strategy is a vigorous audit of the “efficient” application of existing licensed RF spectrum. Also, the separate, but related, issue of “open” internet access becomes part of the political mix.

Of course, the traditional OTA broadcasters see their spectrum threatened (again) and are vigorously pursuing the commercialization of their nascent ATSC M/H (mobile/hand-held) standard. Their primary competition in this space is Flo TV and the various 3G/4G cell carrier on-demand video delivery services. Finding a successful commercial model for M/H is a “long putt,” and the broadcasters may be forced, commercially and politically, to abandon radiated HDTV.

The overriding keynote at this CES was the inexorable power of innovation as the driving force of the CE industry. To the extent our (US) political and economic policies continue to promote and nurture innovation – particularly disruptive innovation – is the extent that we will remain leaders in this most dynamic industry. Stay connected. It will only get better.


Posted by Ed Milbourn, January 12, 2010 8:22 AM

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About Ed Milbourn

After graduating from Purdue University with degrees in Electrical Engineering and Industrial Education in 1961 and 1963 respectively, Ed Milbourn joined the RCA Home Entertainment Division in 1963. During his thirty-eight year career with RCA (later GE and Thomson multimedia), Mr. Milbourn held the positions of Field Service Engineer, Manager of Technical Training and Manager of Sales Training. In 1987, he joined Thomson's Product Management group as Manager of Advanced Television Systems Planning, with responsibilities including Digital Television and High Definition Television Product Management. Mr. Milbourn retired from Thomson multimedia in December 2001, and is now a Consumer Electronics Industry consultant.