Tech geeks unite in Las Vegas for gadget fair

Today show
Updated: 2:07 p.m. ET Jan. 4, 2005

Every January, over 100,000 techies from over 100 countries converge on Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show where the latest and greatest gadgets make their debut. Tech editor and “Today� contributor Corey Greenberg gives a sneak preview at the hottest new gizmos for 2005.

Why are home theaters the biggest trend at CES this year?

A lot of factors have peaked at the same time: DVD, the dominant media format for home theater, is now cheap, widely rentable, and commonplace, with an estimated 65 percent of U.S. households having at least one DVD player, prices on big-screen TVs have dropped significantly in the last two years to below the magic threshold of $1,000 and the growth of high-definition television (HDTV) has spurred many consumers, even in a shaky economy, to buy a home theater. What was a niche category five years ago is now the dominant force in consumer electronics, and the biggest news at this year’s CES is all about new home theater gear.

What’s the controversy over high-definition DVD?

Right now there are two rival camps of electronics manufacturers vying to deliver the next-generation version of the DVD disc, which will have HDTV-quality video, high-resolution multi-channel surround sound, and room for much more data storage than today’s DVD. Toshiba, who led the engineering effort behind the original DVD format, has teamed with NEC in backing HD-DVD or High-Definition DVD. And pretty much everyone else in the CE world — Sony, Panasonic, HP, Pioneer, Philips, LG, and Samsung — has lined up behind the rival format “Blu-Ray,â€? named for the shorter-wavelength blue lasers both of these next-generation formats use to pack more digital bits onto optical discs which are the same size and weight of a regular DVD.

In a controversial move, both camps have announced that they’ll begin shipping players and recorders to dealers this year, letting the market ultimately decide whether Blu-Ray or HD-DVD will become the eventual replacement for the DVD. With both formats offering similar enough capabilities, the hope is that both camps are able to come together and agree on a single, unifying standard for the next-generation DVD before putting us all through another Betamax versus VHS battle.