The set top box is on the run, harried away by television manufacturers. Toshiba sounded the hunting horn this morning, unveiling its Cell TV product line. Don’t be fooled by the name, it’s a classic case of branding in a vacuum. It has nothing to do with mobile phones. It’s a computer morphed into a set top box and wrapped with a big screen TV. The set top box is the TV.
Spot the set top boxToshiba calls the chip that powers it the Cell TV Broadband Engine, which was developed in a joint venture with Sony and IBM. Details were sketchy at the press conference. All Scott Ramirez, Toshiba’s marketing VP for television, could say was “maybe you can ask one of the Japanese guys.” That I’ll do at their booth tomorrow.
They did know that the chip has 8 cores and is capable of 200 GFLOPS. The TV set that’s built around it also has a 1TB hard disk drive and all the networking capability – wired and wireless – anyone could want. It does Internet TV and social networking, works as a home media server and a video phone, and, they say, can convert standard 2D television into 3D. One highlighted feature is its ability to filter Internet noise and process video streams in real time, to narrow the gap between cable/satellite and Internet delivery.
Quite the change from last year, when all the TV set guys said they were putting an Ethernet port into all their products, but didn’t quite know what anyone would do with it. This year, it looks like Toshiba, at least, is getting it right. Take a ton of computing power, use most of it to enhance video quality, save a tiny bit for networking, navigation and sharing, and give it a consumer-friendly user interface that actually does the job.
They’ve turned set top box technology into just another feature set, and integrated it into their product line. Fewer gizmos in the living room and fewer start-up plays in the consumer video space mean content creators and online services will have the same direct path to the living room television that they do to a desktop computer.
Last to first, real time tweets from Las Vegas…
- Bill Gates is the UrGeek. Love or hate him, he’s an original with historic scope. Heroic in classical sense. Ballmer…
- Listening to Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO. Microsoft will rule the world. Honest.
- Sony shows great respect for mobile telecom carriers. Has WiFi Walkman in pipeline, but no 3/4G product that would cause consternation for Sony Ericsson’s mobile carrier customers.
- Sony sez not in negotiations for NZ/Australia mobile carrier deals for netbook, sorry Lifestyle PC, but GSM deals in Europe are locked.
- Even so, Sony netbook, sorry Lifestyle PC, is way cool. 600 grams, 20 cm screen. Uses Windoze OS but has a Linux bios & can boot either way.
- Sony intros netbook, sorry Lifestyle PC. $900. Includes wireless data card. Verizon deal for US, T-Mobile, Vodafone in EU. Nothing in New Zealand or Australia.
- Of course, Sony is cautious. Sony Ericsson is in bed with, and enthusiastically servicing, mobile telecom carriers.
- For CES, Sony divides its business into “in-home” & “out-of-home”. But out-of-home is mobile carrier-friendly, not consumer-focused.
- A couple words of Tagalog got me the sympathy of the bartender, though.
- My Japanese & German is an advantage at CES, Italian & Spanish no help.
- Lots of consumer-grade PR minions at what are supposed to be trade press-class events. Frustrating.
- Snuck a peek at Intel booth, heavy on mobile Internet & 4G, at least the WiMAX flavor.
- Cisco likes femtocell technology, puts it in the same bucket as WiFi. Interesting perspective.
- Steve Ballmer is tonight’s keynote, but here’s the advance scoop: Microsoft Bob is back!
- Apple it’s not but it’s a start for Cisco. They’ll need a lot of help though.
- Linksys by Cisco new consumer brand strategy, paying attention to product design now
- People started leaving, slid in for Q&A. Service provider guy talking about making networks video aware.
- Cisco PR kiddies say look it up on their website later. Duh.
- Cisco press conf overfull. Sent to watch a live web feed. Didn’t work. What business are they in?
- Line for Toshiba press conf too long. One way to manage reduced attendance is to book a smaller room.
- Sharp showing big displays. Really big.
- Line for Toshiba press conference out of control. Must be giving away free stuff.
- Netgear also showing IPTV player and home media center. Category is getting crowded, not much secret sauce anymore.
- Netgear has no deals with mobile carriers but sez they’ll appreciate increased data usage. Not convincing.
- CE guys determined to hang gizmos on mobile data networks: weeds in the walled garden!
- Streaming TV + tethered wifi router = bandwidth hell for carriers. CE guys are on the march!
- Netgear introing wifi router with slot for 3G data modem card. Sez 1 use is streaming TV.
- Skipped main event, checked out stuff afterwards. LG showing netbook, usual mobile phones, nice. Just nice.
- Line for LG press conf already strung out at 7:30am