Son of Ruby?
It has long been rumored that Sony is readying a new, lower-priced SXRD front projector to slot in under the current VPL-VW100. Now those rumors, while not yet confirmed, have more substance. The new projector is codenamed Pearl, and may have the official designation VPL-VW50. (The internal codename for the VPL-VW100, Ruby, has stuck as a name for that projector, though it appears in none of Sony's promotional materials). If the rumors pan out, the new projector will be introduced at the 2006 International Funkausstellung in Berlin in early September, and most certainly will have its official U.S. launch at the 2006 CEDIA EXPO in Denver two weeks later.
The accompanying photo, also seen on the Internet, is apparently from a source in Hong Kong. The specifics are hazy, but the projector will have a full 1920x1080 resolution, an auto iris, a 200W UHP lamp (not the expensive—and expensive to replace—xenon lamp of the VPL-VW100), and a price somewhere between that of the "Ruby" and Sony's LCD projectors. The German website where the most recent news first broke claimed 6000-7000 euros, but US prices will certainly be lower than the near-$10,000 this figure would imply at current exchange rates. My educated guess (and that's all it is) is $6500.
Other details, which may or may not be on the mark, include Sony's third-generation SXRD panels, a specified 15,000:1 contrast ratio (almost certainly with the auto iris engaged), two HDMI inputs, and a low fan noise level of 22dB. Availability should be in October, but we all know how often new product launches tend to slip.
If true, other manufacturers launching new 1080p projectors will soon be counting the Sony logos floating under their eyelids while trying to get to sleep. CEDIA will certainly be interesting this year.