Networking Home Entertainment

Most of the buzz about home-network entertainment applications has focused on wireless Wi-Fi connections and traditional wired Ethernet networks. But a potentially revolutionary new technology called Power Line Communications (PLC) was spotlighted at Panasonic's press conference the day before the 2005 International Consumer Electronics Show opened to the public. Since every electronic component and appliance already plugs into an AC power outlet, PLC - unlike Ethernet - requires no special wiring, and it can be more secure than Wi-Fi because it's not broadcast. Panasonic, which is collaborating with Sony and Mitsubishi in setting standards for high-speed PLC networking, emphasized its potential to bring the benefits of networking to many more homes. Sharp also mentioned PLC during its presentation, saying that it would become practical next year. One of the remote "client" receivers for the Philips WACS700 wireless multiroom digital music system, available in April for $1,000.

Virtually every company holding a press conference mentioned networking in some relation to its products. Wireless, mainly Wi-Fi in its many forms, is the networking technology du jour even though the airwaves are fast becoming cluttered with wireless signals. Sharp promoted its new ultra-wideband wireless networking scheme but failed to go into detail.

Philips introduced a compact multiroom digital music system, the WACS700, that stores up to 40 gigabytes of music on a server and streams it wirelessly to satellite units throughout the house at 54 megabits per second. Its built-in Wi-Fi gear uses the advanced 802.11g standard. A feature called Music Follows Me lets you transfer your favorite music from one room to another at the touch of a key on the remote control. Available in April for $1,000, the WACS700 can also connect to a home computer.

Thomson showed the AR Digital MediaBridge, which looks like a standard A/V component and connects up to three computers with a TV using Ethernet or Wi-Fi to let you surf the Web or view stored images on your TV. It comes with a six-device remote control and supports HDTV and nearly all other video formats as well as every compressed audio format, including MP3, WMA, and AAC. You can buy a Digital MediaBridge for Windows PCs now at a list price of $300. A Mac-compatible version will be available in the spring. < < Back to the International CES 2005 index