CES: Wireless Goes Mainstream?

Is wireless the new black for the consumer electronics industry?

At the annual Consumer Electronics Show, the number of announcements from various companies certainly point to more uses coming soon for wireless beyond traditional WiFi.

One of the more intriguing announcements comes from Silicon Image, a company many people have never heard of but which is the biggest supplier of HD multimedia interface (HDMI) technology. They were quick to notice that HDTVs are getting thinner and thinner, with some coming this year that are less than an inch thick when viewed from the side.

Thin TVs are good news for people who want to hang them on walls, but the downside is that you must face at least one unsightly cable that connects the set to a receiver or set-top box, or tear open the wall to hide that cable.

Silicon Image is court consumer electronics companies to purchase a chip they’ve named LiquidHD that can be baked into TVs, set-top boxes and other products. Rather than connect cables, the devices could talk to each other and stream video and audio wirelessly. With LiquidHD, you also could pause watching video on one TV, walk into another room and resume watching on another. (Stuff you’ve already purchased for your home could be retrofitted with an add-on box for each device).

The company hopes to sign up CE companies quickly and believe products with the $10 chip will become available in 2010. It all sounds good and works well, but Silicon will be competing with a number of technologies that aim to do similar things—in an industry that often is notoriously slow to coalesce around a particular standard or technology.

Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and other big names, for instance, are part of a group called WirelessHD. Some of them were showing systems at CES that already include that technology.

Silicon Image execs say their solution offers better security for content owners and does not force vendors to spend more money on powerful processors because of the way the chip was designed. The California company also hopes to get a leg up in the future by bundling the LiquidHD package with HDMI chips it already sells.

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