CES 2012 Press Day: Panasonic

Where some other Press Day events - namely Samsung's - were big production numbers, Panasonic's was low-key, almost to a fault. Strangely for a consumer show, a big chunk of time was spent by chairman Joseph M. Taylor and CTO Eisuke Tsuyuzaki B2B and industrial products like solar panels, avionics and green initiatives for institutions and industry (Ed Begley, a Vegas-area resident, told the crowd that they could "have a cool beverage and a warm shower, but you can be more efficient").

And shockingly, almost no time was spent discussing plasma products, really Panasonic's strength in the TV space. A single slide mentioned in passing three updated models, and that was it. Weeeeeeird, in our opinion, this glossing over of some of the more exciting products in Panny's relatively strong product portfolio.

That said, the company outlined a strategy that didn't differ all that much in kind from Samsung's, keeping the consumer tech focus on a "comprehensive home entertainment solution." Panasonic's VieraCast connected platform is getting spruced up and renamed ("Smart Viera" is the new moniker), while a bunch of new content will be added, spread across multiple screens, of course.

And Panasonic did spend a lot of time talking about content - 3D content, content partnerships, and adding a social layer to the content experience (more on that below). This is, according to marketing president Shiro Kitajima, the year of 3D content, and the company is partnering with NBC to bring 200 hours of the 2012 London Olympic Games to viewers in 3D (including the opening and closing ceremonies, though what 3D will bring to that experience is unclear to us - people sure like to watch those things, though). Panasonic will also partner with National Geographic to produce 3D content, and will continue its sponsorship of Direct TV's nl3D all-3D channel. More interesting, though not three-dimensional, was a collaboration with Miramax on an on-demand channel dedicated to its films.

On the hardware front, there were some interesting twists. Part of the in-home multiple screen campaign was what was described as a Skype communication device; an at-home only second-screen tablet-like creature meant to integrate with Smart Viera sets, adding a social layer to content experiences, along with touchscreen remote control, a Web browser, and, of course, video chat. Kind of a strange throwback to the old Internet appliances if it can't be used as a standalone tablet, but we'll see when we get a closer look.

Panasonic also announced the worlds smallest 4K TV - a 3.5 mm thin, 20 inch model, packing 8 million pixels. Holy ultra Retina display, Batman! Video editors and obsesssives should rejoice over this thing.

Continuing the retro mood, Panasonic's social TV announcement took the form of a new major partnership with MySpace, introduced by none other than Justin Timberlake, who gave a little talk on the history of the television experience and described the new offering as "not web video - it's television, with the addition of the social web." Basically, this means an integrated chat and Facebook. . . er, MySpace-like social status update client superimposed over live TV. We'll see - there are a lot of players in this space now, and already far too many social apps to keep track of, but compelling content (and easy-to-use sharing tools) could foster integration, perhaps among the younger folks who dominated the demo video.

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