[CEATEC Preview] AV Network: Focus Shifted from Spec to Concept

Sep 22, 2008
Naoki Asakawa, Nikkei Electronics

There are signs that the competition for specifications of digital cameras, camcorders, recorders and other AV digital devices will end before long.

"1080p output," "MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 compression" and other capabilities already has become common, and we cannot find the next axis of competition.

Under such circumstances, new concept devices that would break up the current product categories are expected to emerge at CEATEC JAPAN 2008.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd responded to these expectations with its digital camera. The "Lumix DMC-G1" reduced weight and cost by removing a mirror box and an optical viewfinder although it is a lens-interchangeable camera. It must not be missed to pick up the actual camera and check if the company's new electronic viewfinder (EVF) could really replace an optical finder and solve those challenges.

Focus must also be placed on Casio Computer Co Ltd's "EX-FH20," which is capable of video shooting at a maximum speed of 1,000fps. Sharply cutting the price to around ¥80,000 (approx US$752), much lower than that of its predecessor, the EX-FH20, enables a wide range of users to enjoy high-speed shooting, even if they are neither professionals or advanced hobbyists.

In the digital camcorder segment, manufacturers are shifting recording media to memory cards and built-in memory due to the rapidly falling bit unit price of flash memory. Catching this tide, low price camcorders with built-in memory, such as the "Flip Video" and "AIPTEK," rapidly expanded their shares in the US. It draws interest whether or not digital camcorder manufacturers will exhibit their countermeasures against those low price products at CEATEC.

In the area of network services for AV products, manufacturers are likely to include IPTV functions in many devices. "acTVila" will start its download service at the end of 2008. And "NHK on Demand," which is seen as the killer content of the IPTV service, will begin in December 2008.

Matsushita introduced a Blu-ray Disc recorder that supports the acTVila download service in the market ahead of its rivals. Other AV equipment manufacturers are also expected to increase their acTVila and "Hikari TV" compatible products toward the year-end sale season.

Widget services are being focused as network services that would come next to those video delivery services. Sony Corp finally disclosed a tool for individuals to develop widgets, which can be displayed on Sony BRAVIA TVs. Attention must be paid to the reaction of software engineers at this year's CEATEC.

Toshiba Corp is likely to demonstrate the operation of "Widget Channel," a service it developed in collaboration with Yahoo! and Intel, which allows AV devices to display widgets. We can likely get a peek at the form of future digital home appliances, which operate smoothly in conjunction with Web services.