Winter CES: new formats, products The Consumer Electronics Show is a semi-annual chance to see what's coming down the pike in the retail world. Manufacturers hawk the newest devices for the home markets to retailers and distributors from around the world. This winter's show reportedly brought 80,000 people to Las Vegas, making it the second-largest U.S. trade show after Comdex.
The electronics industry is moving headlong toward incorporating digital technology into all systems. Company reps are showing home entertainment, auto sound, audio and video products with digital processing, compression and transmission capabilities.
From all accounts, this is only the start. Debates are already raging over formats and standards, and over processes for their development. Sounds like the computer industry, doesn't it?
Speaking of the computer industry, CES saw greater participation this year from hardware developers and manufacturers. More products that combined the capabilities of computers with standard consumer electronics devices were in evidence. Even IBM was exhibiting, a sharp change in direction from the times when Big Blue wouldn't acknowledge a consumer retail channel for its products.
Home theater. The home stereo market is paying increasing attention to "home theater": an audio and video entertainment center utilizing Laserdiscs and analog or digital "surround sound" capabilities. The most important catalysts in this area have been cramming the logic required for Dolby ProLogic surround sound into an inexpensive VLSI chip (which makes it possible to build ProLogic surround sound into reasonably priced receivers) and the appearance of attractively priced "combi" players that play all optical disc formats from 4.7" CDs to 12" video Laserdiscs. Laserdisc players are now being combined with CD players into a single device that reads various optical media.
Video printing and editing. Following the success of camcorders (roughly three million were sold in 1990 alone), Hitachi, Sony, Mitsubishi and others have developed video printers for the consumer. The video printers are still priced rather high, in the $1,000-$1,500 range. There is a feeling that consumers will want even more functionality from their home video devices. Prices are expected to drop, but not too quickly.
Video editing devices are also proliferating. One of the most exciting is NewTek's Video Toaster for the Commodore Amiga computer. This add-in card lets the user mix two video sources and add special effects to home or live videos. (See Vol. 5, no. 5, p. 22, for a description of the Video Toaster.)
Adding to its successful camcorder line, Canon announced a remote-control-sized video editing device that will remember start and stop points for up to four separate clips at a time and assemble them onto a VCR. The device will memorize scenes from any VCR or camcorder using the …