Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tech files

Two gadget pieces this week with an impact on the market.

---= New TV technology =---

As if picking what television is going to dominate your living room isn't complicated enough with all the different DVD standards and HDTV changes going on, a whole new type of display is headed for the market.

The new displays, made by a joint venture of Canon and Toshiba, is a SED display. SED stands for "Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display", and has a very high color contrast ratio of 100,000:1. Videophiles who have seen it rave that the ultra-black dark colors make the images "pop" out and look very rich and vivid.

The kicker is that while the world is still spending billions to make ever larger LCD panels, SED panels could be quite a lot cheaper when scaled up. So far the maximum shown has been 55 inches, which is about the size of many the old "big-box" projection TVs. Now imagine that big-box being flat like an LCD, cheap like a projection TV, and having extremely crisp color and contrast. You can imagine how that might impact the TV market.

Of course if you can afford it you still want one of these.

---= Perhaps the PS3 is cool, but Sony is freaking out =---

How embarassing it must be for Sony. The once mighty inventor of the walkman and playstation has lost so much market clout. The iPod took their music player business and they have competitors on every side.

The upcoming PlayStation 3 got a burst of Geek Cred this week when Terra Soft Solutions announced the release of a version of Linux specifically for the SONY PS3. Yes, with it's integrated 20GB hardrive and native 1080p high definition output the SONY PS3 could easily be the core of a living room entertainment system. Run web browsers, openoffice, and bittorrent all you like. You could download movies and play them straight into an HDTV off your PS3.

Sadly, much of this potential actually seems to be missed by Sony. Instead of touting the potential uses of the PS3 with it's integrated Blu-ray drive for high resolution movies and more, Sony has started playing shady underhanded marketing tricks. This week they released the "Fact Sheet" below asserting that people should think of the Xbox as costing $698 because they believe the average user will have to buy an add-on Hard drive, HD DVD drive, controller, and online subscription.

At first glance I thought this was no big deal, just an "apples to apples" comparison to emphasize how much the $499 PS3 package has in it. Unfortunately their marketing literature asserts that this is what an Xbox user "needs" and, the real bad part, you can actually buy the $399 Xbox Premium set which includes the hard drive, wireless controller, and 12-months of Xbox silver subscription. If you add in another $100 for the HD-DVD player (not needed to play ANY Xbox games) you still only arrive at the exact same price as the PS3. Ouch. Bad one Sony.

Sony has been dealing with an epidemic of delays and problems internally, I don't expect they'll get their groove back until they have exciting products done well so that people want to buy them without misleading marketing. Sigh.

Dislosure: The Finance Wonk doesn't have an Xbox or a PlayStation. But if you wanted to send me one I wouldn't complain :)

Invest Well,


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