Industry Developments from the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show
TV Your Way, 2.0
TiVo (TIVO) kicked off a revolution in the television market 10 years ago by promising "TV your way" with a new technology called digital video recording, which searched for and recorded shows so consumers could watch whenever it suited them. This year, TV manufacturers are kicking that notion up a notch with a slew of "broadband televisions" that let people tap the Internet for everything from movies and TV shows to friends' photos and stock picks. The technology is being built right into TVs so consumers won't have to buy additional boxes to plug into their sets.
South Korea's Samsung Electronics said it would begin building TV sets later this year that include widgets—icons that serve as shortcuts to such Web sites as YouTube (GOOG), Flickr (YHOO), and Yahoo! A football fan watching the Super Bowl could skip the halftime show to see highlights of his favorite running back on YouTube or read headlines from Yahoo.
Rival LG Electronics said it will offer Web-connected sets that let users download movies from Netflix for immediate viewing. Today, Netflix (NFLX) subscribers mostly get their movies by mail.
Manufacturers hope the new features will rejuvenate TV sales, which slowed because many consumers have already replaced their cathode-ray-tube sets with high-definition flat panels. But it may pose a threat to cable companies and other traditional players.
Free Phone Calls
How hard can it be to sell a device that lets you avoid AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) and make free calls? It can be tricky if you're startup Ooma, which is launching its second such product after a troubled debut last year. The Palo Alto (Calif.) company's Telo is a cordless handset that connects to the Web to make free domestic and reduced-cost international calls. (Calls to Britain, for example, cost less than 2 cents a minute from the U.S.) Ooma's first device was buggy and suffered from call quality problems, but CEO Rich Buchanan says those problems have been fixed. He says Telo will be available in the first half of the year.
Netbooks: A New Take on Touch
Small, inexpensive computers known as netbooks have been a huge success, thanks to prices as low as $300 and good-enough technology. Now a number of companies are betting that netbooks with touchscreen technology will become the next big hit.
The touchscreen netbooks will go for as little as $500. They'll use handwriting recognition technology so people can take notes and draw pictures, using a stylus similar to a pen or finger.
On Jan. 6, Asustek, the leading netbook manufacturer, introduced a touchscreen model. Chip giant Intel (INTC) is scheduled to follow up on Jan. 9 with a touchscreen design that several of its partners will use. Manufacturers are betting that touchscreen netbooks will prove more successful than the tablet PC, a Microsoft (MSFT)-backed effort—unveiled with much fanfare several years ago—that has gained little traction in the portable computing market.