CES 2007 - Wilder and Crazier Than Ever Page 3

Another random observation: At its press conference, one big company arrayed giant screens across the stage and chose some odd videos to show off the displays. As the presentation unfolded, the screens looped through visually exciting hi-def shots of a woman getting a massage (complete with oil being dribbled across her nude back), ankle-to-head pans of a lovely woman crouched on a bicycle, and an orgasmic montage of a bikinied woman emerging from a swimming pool. Pornographic? No. Marginal in the good-taste department? You bet. Sure, Vegas thrives on sex. But early on a Sunday morning, again and again, looping through slo-mo jiggle shots? What were they thinking?

A few other trendlets: wireless home audio systems, noise-canceling headphones, and Bluetooth headphones. The traditional "Zone 2" feature of A/V receivers is being replaced by wireless servers that transmit audio data to another room. Klipsch has added another wrinkle - a wireless subwoofer, because the sub is usually on the other side of the room, and running a cable to it is a pain. Along similar lines, everyone now offers an 80-GB box that docks with an iPod and Wi-Fi's to other receivers around the home. It also seems as if everyone has jumped on the Bose bandwagon and is offering noise-canceling headphones. Maybe it's because Bose has made a mint on its QuietComfort headphones, or maybe the world is just getting noisier. And there's a definite push toward wireless headphones. Look for more MP3 players that transmit the audio data to the headphones instead of spoiling your "look" with a wire.

The most obvious trend at the show: Anything and everything that plugs into, docks with, wraps around, allows wall mounting, causes to glow in the dark, transmits over FM, connects to an armband, cradles, ruggedizes, personalizes, or otherwise is loosely associated with iPods, is huge. On the other hand, the number of iPod wanna-be's is staggering. By sheer market dilution, Apple's monopoly will evaporate.

A final note. In less than 1,000 days, broadcast analog television will cease to exist. Countless analog television receivers, after faithfully tuning into over-the-air broadcasts for decades, will cease functioning in that manner. The days counting down to that event will provide tremendous incentive for consumers to chuck their old TVs and buy new digital ones. And while at the store picking up a new flat panel, they'll probably go whole-hog and toss in a Blu-ray or HD DVD player, a new receiver, and maybe even new speakers. Never before has it been more important to know about audio/video technology and make smart purchasing decisions. And never before has audio/video technology been so complex. My advice: Stay on your toes, stay informed, stay loose, and whatever you buy - make darn sure it's not analog.

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