DVD, Divx divides attendees at CES

Sony prez calls for cooperation with HDTV development

LAS VEGAS — The Consumer Electronics Show ended here Sunday after 90,000 conventioneers spent four days talking tech, digging digital TV and debating DVD and Divx. Adding fuel to the event’s fire was the $79 billion in retail electronic sales analysts are projecting.

A Philips senior executive said this CES was his company’s “best show ever,” thanks largely to heavy promotion of an industry first — the Philips dual-deck audio CD recorder, which won a CES Innovations ’99 Best of Show award. Other best of show awards went to Principle Solutions’ foul- language filter TV Guardian, Marantz’s new tabletop music system and Thomson’s RCA high-definition TV converter.

In his keynote address, Sony Corp. of America Chairman Howard Stringer called for cooperation in developing high-definition TV. But little common ground was found just hours later at a heated session involving DVD promoters and Divx upstarts at Circuit City, which some say is cutting into the growing DVD market.

Warner Home Video Prexy Warren Lieberfarb said that while five Hollywood studios have released titles on Divx, “those same studios release their titles on open DVD. Perhaps they’re hedging their bet.”

At the Digital Hollywood conference at the MGM Grand, speakers said broadband and DTV roll-outs will reach significant numbers in two years — meaning programming changes for all entertainment providers. Columbia TriStar technology veep Robert Tercek said mass-media formats will change to one-to-one relationships with customers. The key, he said, is making content relevant to the individual, so “content will turn into a service.”

This year’s CES show also began in earnest the march of digital TV, from aficionado high-end to industry standard as 2006 approaches, when all analog TV signals will be dumped for digital. Prices this year for high-end digital sets should be $10,000.

The dominant visual at CES clearly was Panasonic, whose 22,000-square-foot exhibit stretched the width of the hanger-like Las Vegas Convention Center.

(Barbara Scherzer contributed to this report.)

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