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Looking Ahead to the CES

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Looking Ahead to the CES
Friday January 4, 11:24 am ET
By Tero Kuittinen, Contributor

I'll be heading to Vegas this weekend for the biggest consumer electronics event of the year -- the Consumer Electronics Show. This mammoth jamboree does not have a specific mobile handset focus, but phone biz is definitely a big chunk of CES. Some announcements -- or lack thereof -- may move share prices next week. Here are three questions I find compelling.

Is a laser projector a high-end feature in smartphones in 2010?

The mobile phone industry has been buzzing about miniature projection technology for years. Many have given up on the notion as one of those concepts that always seem to be two years away from the market. But recent advances in laser technology may have finally brought the idea to the cusp of commercialization.

Microvision's demo of its new laser projector is one of the hot tickets of the CES week -- the Show stand-alone unit is a neat product -- but the really interesting angle here is the potential of a module embedded in smartphones and laptops. Microvision has slimmed down the gadget to 7 mm. The laser projector does not need to be focused with lenses and can deliver vibrant, strong colors even on a wall a couple of feet away. Power consumption and price may be formidable hurdles, though.

But the recent success of high-end models from Nokia N95 to LG KU990 clearly demonstrates that there is strong demand for luxury phones with cutting-edge photo/video/display technology. Five-megapixel technology and large touch screens will have been adopted by three to five leading vendors by the first quarter of 2008; the industry is hungry for new differentiating features.

Camera quality and video capture tech can only be refined so far. Display real estate on the handset is reaching its maximum spread with nonflexible screens, as it now stretches across 80%-95% in cutting-edge models. An embedded miniature projector would open up a new front in the features arms race, and operators might be willing to subsidize these phones heavily because they could persuade consumers to download a lot more content. Much boils down to whether power consumption and price are finally decent.

There's plenty to watch for at the CES this year; I'll be posting throughout next week on the trends to keep an eye on for 2008.


At January 5, 2008 at 12:08 PM Anonymous said...

BTW Ben, Tero is not the only writer who is keen on MVIS. I emailed Scott Moritiz, the telco writer, and he said MVIS' product will be huge.

At January 7, 2008 at 10:27 AM Anonymous said...

Ben-- Microvision and Alex in NY Times:

Eyeing the Future at C.E.S., Part 2
By Brad Stone

Tags: CES, Microvision

Following up on my last post: what if you didn’t have to strap on a pair of geeky goggles to watch video on your iPod, cell phone or video game console, but could project the device’s image on a nearby wall or surface? That’s the premise of Microvision, a company from Redmond, Wash., and its pocket-sized, laser-powered Pico Projector.
Microvision is here at C.E.S. showing an advanced prototype, which it hopes to start selling by the end of this year. The Pico Projector is a card-sized device that connects to a cell phone or other gadget and uses a laser to project an image at the equivalent size of a 60-inch television screen. Other companies, including Texas Instruments, are developing similar kinds of mobile projection displays.
Regardless whose technology wins out, these companies envision people easily sharing photos, videos and live television feeds on a new generation of mobile devices with video-out capabilities. It’s the kind of technology I expect we’ll hear a lot of hype about for a couple of years, and then, suddenly, these micro projectors will be everywhere.
Alexander Tokman, chief executive of Microvision, says that his products will start out as separate hardware but ultimately become embedded in most phones, media players and other devices whose screens are constrained by their size. “It’s a first step, a market enabler,” he said. “But we strongly believe, one market acceptance is gained, everyone in this food chain will benefit for having this feature.”

At January 8, 2008 at 6:13 AM Anonymous said...

more interesting stuff for you, Ben.


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