DTV Primer

Chris Llana, Editor


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Technology Update

October 9, 2005

TV makers continue their march toward higher resolution flat-panel displays. And the high-definition video disc format war tilts toward Blu-ray.

At the recent CEATEC show in Japan, television manufacturers' latest offerings illustrate the trend toward displays with full 1080p resolutions, dubbed "full-specification" hi-def. I like to call it full-blown HD, versus 720p HD-lite, which displays fewer than half the pixels of the 1920 x 1080 displays.

The other apparent fact is that the competition between plasma and LCD flat-panel displays is stronger than ever.

On the plasma front, Panasonic unveiled a prototype 50" plasma set with 1080p resolution (a first for a set his small). Although that set is not ready to go to market, Panasonic will start selling a 65" 1080p plasma set next month in Japan. Plasma sets have in the past been of the 720p variety because of various technical issues.

Matsushita, Hitachi, and Pioneer have reportedly developed a plasma set that operates using half the power of current designs, although this development will not be available commercially for a few more years.

SED flat-panel sets should have made inroads by then.

LCD flat-panel set makers have not been sitting idly by. Sharp claims to have developed an LCD monitor with a million-to-one contrast ratio, aimed at the professional market. (a ten-fold boost)

All Sharp's LCD TVs brought out in Japan next year will be 1080p sets. More 50" and 57" sets are on the way (to better compete with plasma). New backlighting technology is being adopted to improve color fidelity and saturation.

While these larger LCD flat-panel sets tend to be pricey, there is something of a price war raging for smaller flat-panel displays (circa 32").

Hi-def video disc format war.

There seems to be a trend developing in skirmishes between the Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD camps. The tide of battle seems to be moving toward the Blu-ray side lately. We're still about six months from seeing product in stores, so it's too early to call the war, but some industry pundits seem ready to do just that.

Paramount and some other studios in the HD-DVD camp are beginning to waver in that support, and are now taking a more neutral stance, offering support for Blu-ray Disc as well. A deal with all-important Warner Brothers is even reportedly in the offing.

Microsoft and Intel have been making loud noises in support of HD-DVD, in a manner that at least one observer described as desperation. (It isn't true that Microsoft controls the world?)

Meanwhile, the Blu-ray Disc Association intends to establish a read-only disc format for Blu-ray before year's end, something the HD-DVD folks have done already. Once that's out of the way, software (i.e. movies) can be produced.