DISH-ing the Dirt
Nowhere is this transformation more dramatic than with the usually staid, price-focused satellite TV provider DISH, unveiling a super line of upscale receivers and a new kangaroo mascot that promises to keep customers' favorite shows jumping.
Smartest feature of the DISH Hopper receiver is PrimeTime Anytime. The Hopper will record and store the last eight nights of prime-time programming on the Big 4 Networks - ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. We're talking the bulk of TV content that monopolizes America's collective attention. PrimeTime Anytime functions like a morning-after pill for TV-aholics. When the watercooler gang talks about the crazy comedy antics on "Two Broke Girls" or the shocking finale of "The Amazing Race," which you meant to watch, now you still can.
But wait, there's more. Exploiting a huge, two-terrabyte hard drive and fast processor, the Hopper also automatically stores the 70 most popular pay-per-view titles for instant gratification, records up to six high-definition channels at the same time and can play back up to four shows simultaneously to the primary connected set and three other, junior-sized ("Joey") DISH boxes and TVs.
A Hopper also builds in "Sling TV Everywhere" tech: remotely tune and watch any DISH channel on a Wi-Fi-connected tablet or computer, wherever on earth you are. "TV anywhere" offerings from rival cable and satellite services are severely restricted in channel numbers.
SiriusXM steps up
More memory and smarts also allow satellite radio provider SiriusXM to step up its game in the new Lynx Portable Radio, a sleek touch-screen device that resembles a smartphone. Powered up in a satellite reception zone, Lynx automatically records your favorite 25 channels, stockpiling about eight hours of each. When you go where satellite signals can't penetrate - say, on the subway - you'll have lots of music and talk to enjoy.
Also kind of magical, Lynx starts a selected channel at the beginning of a song, even if you're joining it mid-verse.
Borrowing features from smartphones, Lynx beams music wirelessly to Bluetooth-enabled speakers and headphones, and boasts a separate circuit to pull in Internet versions of SiriusXM channels via Wi-Fi. And grab this: Those Internet channels can be "rewound" up to five hours, a great trick for enjoying an in-progress Phish concert or Metropolitan Opera performance from the very first note.
Lynx also tunes in a couple of dozen new channels, especially strong in Latino, classic rock and comedy showcase themes.
My baby shot me down
Some pundits have predicted the death of dedicated, point-and-shoot still cameras. Samsung is partially to blame with its camera-equipped Android mobile phones. But Samsung's also fighting for the right of modern shooters to collect better images with dedicated cameras boasting higher-quality lenses (real zooms!) and also some ability (as phones have) to zap images instantly to Facebook, Picasa and YouTube via a wireless Wi-Fi network.
At CES, Samsung will trumpet this cause with five new digital cameras (starting at $199 with the DV300F) and even a high-def video/still camera (Q20/QF20, $299-$349) ready to point, shoot and upload to your favorite website or Samsung's new multimedia cloud storage locker, AllShare Play - free to use with any Samsung device.
The home-video divisions of Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures dipped toes into a high-tech stream at year's end with the first Blu-ray disc releases (including the "Harry Potter" finale and "Friends With Benefits") featuring UltraViolet content sharing. This year, the streaming tech could really get flowing.
Designed to keep movie buffs buying instead of renting their entertainment, UltraViolet titles come with a code that (once registered through a computer) allows as many as six friends and family members to stream the same flick, for free, to their computer, tablet or smartphone from studio-run servers in the cloud.
A legal form of peer-to-peer sharing, UV also allows for up to five copies to be downloaded for off-line viewing, much more generous than the terms with today's Digital Copy. And there's potential in this system to make movies you already own UltraViolet-streamable (at a modest per-title cost).
NBC/Universal, Fox, Paramount and Lionsgate (most big studios, except Disney) also are committed to the UV cause. But the anticipated announcement of a big retail partner or three that have their own streaming services (Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy are likely candidates) won't come until midyear, shared one studio exec at CES. That's also when a single standard for encoding UV streams will be finalized and "UltraViolet-ready" players will be good to go.
The Motorola brand goes back to the dawning of car radios and black-and-white television. These days, Motorola is best known for mobile phones, tablet computers and cable TV boxes. With Google ready to swallow up the company if the feds approve, Motorola is also moving forward at CES with smart introductions in the home automation and "TV anywhere" realms.
The dexterous Motorola Connected Home Gateway, a CES 2012 Innovations Honoree designed at the company's Horsham facility, is a "one box" solution (Verizon is deploying it) that ties together home control, home security and energy management gear from numerous companies and standards.
To maximize your monthly cable TV investment, Motorola has come up with Televation, a cable-connected device that can beam subscription channels wirelessly around the house to Wi-Fi-enabled tablets. Cable companies will offer it first, though Televation may also reach retail shelves.
CES used to be the domain of "aftermarket" car electronics manufacturers. Now old-line carmakers are also making major tech statements here.
Ford's at CES touting how health diagnostics can be built into cars and introducing lots more "apps" for its Sync system. GM's On-Star division is showing how car owners can do good (and make money) by turning their vehicles into car-share participants with a service called RelayRides. And first time CESer Chrysler hopes to turn heads and ears with its voice-activated "Umatics" systems controls and the banging "Beats by Dr. Dre" sound in the 2012 Dodge Charger.