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CES shows how media tablets are reshaping electronics landscape

Posted: 12 Jan 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:media tablets? Internet TV? wireless video?

No doubt the brightest stars of this year�s Consumer Electronics Show were the media tablets.

The loudest buzz on the show floor and even behind closed doors in hotel suites in Las Vegas last week, however, was not about the tablets themselves, but the major changes tablets, specifically initiated by Apple�s iPad, are triggering in the entire electronics industry.

Change #1: A great switcheroo from Google TV to iPad

Gone is the industry�s ravenous appetite for Google TV, replaced by a growing excitement for bringing TV to every screen at home. Tablets are the key to this great switcheroo.

TV manufacturers? efforts to bring Internet content to TV (a la Google TV) �stands as a polar opposite? to service providers? initiatives (i.e. Comcast�s online video service called Xfinity, for example) to bring video on every screen (tablet, mobile, PC and more TVs) at home, observed Kip Compton, senior director, strategy and product management at Cisco Systems Inc.

Bringing the Internet to TV is an idea CE manufacturers have pushed for years. Amid recent delays in software revisions by Google TV, Internet TV has proven to be hard to implement. Worse, despite the revamped UI and Google �search? capabilities tailored for TV, it�s even harder to get traction with consumers accustomed to the conventional TV user interface.

Now, Apple may be solving this dilemma, faster than Google.

With the emergence of tablets like Apple�s iPads, a consumer can now easily search for a YouTube video clip on his tablet, while sitting on the sofa in a living room with a big- screen TV.

More important, service providers like Comcast have begun pushing online video services_neither tied to their physical cable plants nor cable STBs connected to a big-screen TV.

Many service providers see opportunity in piping video services to TVs, PCs, tablets and mobile devices, all off a common IP platform. Cisco, too, is pitching �Videoscape,? its own version of �network-is-the-platform? idea.

Comcast also launched its first Xfinity iPad app in November last year, giving users a TV guide and the ability to use it as a remote control for compatible DVRs.

In sum, tablets are enabling service providers to steal the show from Google TV. As online video services grow, consumers are likely to consume more video (and surfing the Net) on their tablets, while leaving the TV alone.

Change #2: Wireless video is hot again

Tablets are also renewing the industry�s interest in wireless video. Wireless chip vendors ranging from those pushing WiGig (60GHz) and Wireless HD (60GHz) to Quantenna Communications (4x4 MIMO 802.11n) and Amimon (WHDI on 5GHz) have all accelerated the pace and intensity of conversations with leading technology developers pushing tablets, smartbooks and PCs.

Why? Now that video is being sent to any-size screen at home, there is a growing need for wirelessly displaying that content and sharing it with others on other screens, including the large-screen TV at home.

Many wireless video developers in the past pitched various used-case scenarios for their wireless technologies. They ranged from a cable-free connection between a big-screen TV and a DVR to multi-room wireless connections allowing Internet content on a PC in a den to display on a big-screen TV in a living room.

On one end of the spectrum, Quantena is betting on the emergence of �a new generation of converged broadcast and Internet-based entertainment services that require an ultra-reliable, high-performance Wi-Fi connection.? The company hopes to meet the growing need for distributing multiple high-definition videos streams to TVs and displays anywhere in the home at full, 1080p resolution with its �carrier-grade? 4x4 MIMO 802.11n chipset.

David French, Quantenna CEO, said, �This is becoming really hot. Yes, there are other wireless video solutions out there, but no consumer electronics companies would look at them if they are not WiFi-based.?

On the other hand, beyond the distribution of multiple HD video streams at home (which WHDI can do without delay and through walls), Amimon believes it�s important to bring mobile devices into the mix.

�There are two vectors? that have triggered the industry�s revived interest in WHDI, explained Yoav Nissan-Cohen, chairman and CEO of Amimon. First, WHDI devices today are solidly based on the standard, so that they don�t need to be �factory-paired.? He said, �We are seeing a growing eco-system.? Second, �our solutions are going down in size so that they can go into any devices ranging from mobiles, tablets to PCs and TVs.?

Consumers want to flip their photos on their iPads and share them on a large-screen TV_wirelessly. Or, they want to project a video game or movie downloaded on a smartphone to a big TV_again, wirelessly. Asked about Quantenna, Nissan-Cohen noted, �It may be difficult to integrate four antennas into a small mobile device.?

At its suite in a hotel in Las Vegas, Amimon�s CEO told this reporter: �We can show you what Steve Jobs can�t show you.? With an iPad on his hand, Nissan-Cohen demonstrated how he can project a photo, film or game from an iPad to a large-screen flat-panel display _via WHDI, without delay. Pretty cool.

Change #3: Tablets will change the enterprise computer market forever

Accenture has begun to ask CIOs at corporations, including its own, if they have considered replacing netbooks and desktop PCs with a single device like a tablet. The survey results are not in yet. Inevitably, questions like whether Android-based tablets are secure enough for enterprise applications will crop up. But �we believe that they are going to be open to the idea,? said Mitchell Cline, managing partner at Accenture.

According to Accenture, 2010 marked the first year that personal spending in technology ($1,100) surpassed that of investment in technology per head at a corporation. The refresh cycles of technology are much faster in the consumer market, destined to affect the enterprise market. So much innovation is also taking place in tablets.

As the whole market has already seen in the mobile OS market where a number of viable OS are fighting it out, 2011 will be the year when the Wintel model in the PC market will finally start collapsing. �It�s free-fall,? said Kumu Puri, a senior executive in the consumer electronics practice within Accenture�s Electronics & High-Tech industry group.

With the emergence of tablets, �PC companies need to be thinking about how to morph the computing paradigm shift already happening at home into the office environment,? she explained. �We are not talking about investments in a few years. This is the year that investment needs to be made.?

Junko Yoshida
EE Times

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