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Reportages

World of Consumer Electronics - IFA 2005
Berlin, 2 - 7 September 2005
The organizer seemed to be satisfied with this year's fair - 1,200 firms have put up their offers and new products - it means up twenty per cent to the last edition. The newest solutions of "intelligent" home systems, computers and games, navigation and mobile multimedia gizmos, photographic and video equipment including TV - have been widely demonstrated. During six days new contracts for 2,500 million EUR were agreed.
The show was dominated by sudden technological development of TV sets and the contest between new systems of digital recording - Blu-ray and HD-DVD. Spread of these technologies will determine expansion of multimedia, as well as the direction of the whole consumer electronics evolution.
The optimism of the organizer is being shattered by the fact that with both techniques Europe is only an observer, as the production and consumption will mainly be growing in Asia and US.

HDTV sets in Europe. Big size TV sets, of 40" or bigger diagonal, require HDTV technology (High Definition TV) in order to ensure watching comfort. In US, Japan and some developed Asian countries, this technology has been accepted as the base for transition from analog to digital TV. In Europe, the analogous base has become standard resolution DVB-T format, which will limit the quality of images viewed on that new, high-definition sets. The solution that remains for enthusiasts of the new technology is either use of satellite HDTV receiver or, in the future, cable HDTV. To describe the level of European HDTV market it is enough to say that only two satellite trial programs are being broadcast today. Worlds apart - only one US digital platform Voom transmits 35 HDTV programs. Up to now, no European CATV provider has merged HDTV transmission into his offer, whilst 73 million subscribers can use such signals within US cable networks.

A clash with formats - Blu-ray versus HD-DVD. At one time the world saw the war between VCR formats - VHS and Betamax. More sophisticated and technically advanced Betamax has been driven out of business by cheaper VHS. The same old story - the new tough competition has begun - this time for accepting the one system of high density optical recording. The warriors are armed with lasers of different colors: the new blue one applied in Blu-ray technology supported by Sony and Philips, and the second, currently used in DVD but sharpened one - applied in HD DVD supported by Toshiba, NEC and Sanyo.

The Blu-ray format allows to record up to 25 GB of digital data on a single disc. The drawback of the system is necessity of working out and implementation of a quite new equipment both for production lines manufacturing discs and for read-write heads in players and recorders. Anyway, the films of 20th Century Fox, Columbia, TriStar, MGM, Buena Vista, Walt Disney are to be seen on Blu-ray discs soon.

HD DVD (High Density Digital Versatile Disc) system provides 15 GB. It is development of present DVD format, being constituted as its formal successor. So it is well embedded in production practice among big manufacturing record companies and doesn't require considerable financial outlays. Warner Bros, Universal Studios and Paramount Pictures are planning to release their recordings in this format. May be the competitors will be reconciled by the solution having been developed in Samsung laboratories, enabling to combine both systems in one device. After launching such players, at least costumers won't have the problem of choice.
The show was dominated by sudden technological development of big size TV sets manufactured according to HDTV requirements.
Toshiba has presented Hi-Vision Network TV - multimedia appliance being HDTV set equipped with Ethernet 10/100 Mb/s and USB ports, as well as SD card reader - what enables to link it with computers, laptops, network drives, mobile USB devices and the Internet.
Sharp was introducing Aquos LC-65GD1E - LCD TV with 165cm diagonal. The set will be available in Europe in December. At present, 1000 pieces per month are being produced in Kameyama plant. Forty per cent of them go to Japan, and the rest to US. The price - 13,000 EUR.
Some firms were marketing IPTV set-top-boxes, devices allowing to employ VoD service and support IP TV receiving, and also to browse WWW pages. Among them was Golden Interstar that presented its IPTV boxes with both Linux and Windows CE system.
IP television can diversify the offer of cable TV operators, but first of all it will enable network providers, mainly the bigger telecommunications firms, to use their broadband data connections for TV / video dissemination.
DVB-T MHP receiver. Interactive television using MHP platform has reached its quickest development in Italy. DVB-MHP has been designed in order to create a platform allowing to implement easily interactive applications in DVB receivers. MHP enables to exercise any kind of applications such as e-banking or email service.
There have appeared monitors based on OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) displays allowing to make small screens with very wide angles of view and excellent reproduction of colors. The application of the technology in bigger screens would mean the next turning point in all imaging sector.
Once, the world saw the war between VCR formats - VHS and Betamax. More sophisticated and technically advanced Betamax has been driven out of business by cheaper VHS. The new tough competition has begun - this time for accepting the one system of high density optical recording.
Most of Blu-ray players were introduced as prototypes, so that some considerable period of time is needed to see them at stores.
The future of optical memory - in 2 years' time it will exceed 120GB.
FLASH memory cards have already conquered the market; they have reached 8 GB now. During the next year it is planned to introduce 70 nm and 50 nm technology that will enable further increase of their capacity.
Another appliance of Philips from the Streamium series is Wireless Music Center WACS700 - the unit that has earned EISA (European Imaging &Sound Association) award. It allows to collect music pieces on a 40GB HDD and to distribute them with wireless technology within all apartment/house.
Western Digital was offering 1" HDDs with CF II interface and the capacity up to 6GB. They are suitable for mobile applications like MP3 and MPEG4 players or for purposes requiring quickest alternative to FLASH cards.
The popularity of mobile appliances equipped with DVB-T and DVD is still growing.
The majority of new new devices provides HDMI interface. High class receivers, receiver-amplifiers, DVD players require reliable signal transmission to TV sets, multimedia projectors, home cinemas. HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) - it is new standard of digital connection which is the successor to DVI (Digital Video Interface). HDMI has been expanded to DVI with digital audio transmission and copyright protection protocol.
At Sony stand one could have some rest in attractive armchairs, listening to music.