CES showcasing slimmer, energy-saving TVs
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - TVs, TVs everywhere but not a 150-inch in sight. With much of the world grappling with recession, technology giants at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas eschewed the one-upmanship that had characterized past gatherings and focused instead on unveiling slimmer, energy-saving televisions with Internet bells and whistles.
Sony, Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Toshiba and others trotted out high-definition TV screens on Wednesday designed to pull videos, photos and other content off the Web and into the living room.
"Even though we have a recession now, like everybody, we do not want to reduce our marketing spending and we want to invest more money on R&D and customer service and eco-friendly and environmental issues," LG Electronics North America President and Chief Executive Michael Ahn told Reuters.
"It is a hard decision," he said in an interview. "But we want to invest for our future."
Many stressed the eco-friendly, power-saving abilities of their latest TVs -- a key selling point at a time when households are tightening their belts. Unlike in past years, not one company tried to outshine the competition with the physically biggest screen.
The new TVs can siphon content off Internet sites such as Google's video sharing site YouTube, movie rental chain Netflix, and allow messaging of friends on social networks like MySpace or Twitter.
Yahoo unveiled a big push to marry the Internet and television -- something no company has successfully pulled off thus far -- through deals with the main Asian TV makers.
Since the dawn of the Internet age, companies have been promising "convergence" of online and TV universes -- but failed to connect with consumers.
"In a lot of ways these are two different worlds, but we believe that users are increasingly looking for more out of their media platforms," said Patrick Barry, vice president of connected TV at Yahoo.
Wrapping up Wednesday's event, Microsoft announced it will let consumers begin testing the next iteration of its leading computer operating system, Windows 7, from Friday, which experts hope will sweep away most of the cobwebs from the controversial Vista.
Microsoft also won a deal from Verizon to provide mobile Internet search services, in a setback for Google and Yahoo's wireless ambitions.
The new TVs, which use Intel's CE1000 chip, will offer up an array of Widgets -- small Internet applications -- that run alongside TV content, but not over it.
Gone were the 150-inch TV behemoths that once lorded over the show floor and attracted hoards of curious.
Instead, executives sang a different tune, preaching smaller and sleeker is better, as Samsung did with its one-inch thick TVs that use light-emitting-diodes (LEDs) rather than cold cathode fluorescent lamps as their primary light source.
Sony estimated that such screens use 40 percent less power than traditional LCDs.
Away from the tube, Sony also made a play to enter the market for ultra-portable laptops, announcing what it called the world's lightest notebook with an 8-inch screen, costing a whopping $900 despite its pocket dimensions.
A recurring theme on Wednesday was one of caution.
Amid the worst global credit crisis since the 1930s, executives warned of difficult times ahead but vowed to continue rolling out innovative products, positioning themselves for an inevitable rebound.
The chief executive of Sony Ericsson, a venture of Sony and Ericsson, sees a tough cell phone market through the end of 2009, with unit sales down by about 5-6 percent as consumer demand slows in the weak global economy.
LG appeared the boldest publicly, pledging to raise spending on research and development -- now about 4 percent of their revenue -- and suggesting a slightly enlarged market share in 2009 as it sustains its North American push.
"The economy is going through a reset," Robbie Bach, president of entertainment & devices for Microsoft, told Reuters in an interview.
"In the short term, that means that every business is having some impact. We are going to manage through that and come out the other end of that reset a much stronger company."