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January 23, 2006

What Was Cool at CES?

Pat Esser, Paul Allen and other cable guys pick their CES hits.

By John P. Ourand

Really big TVs and super-small cameras are "in." That's the consensus of several cable executives who squeezed through the packed halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center for the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month.

We asked eight cable guys to tell us what excited them most at CES. Most had some variation about waiting in 90-minute taxicab lines or trying to see the displays with 150,000 other attendees.

But when it came to the gadgets, half of our respondents were wowed by Samsung's 102-inch HDTV, which was truly awe inspiring.

Others respondents were impressed with the rapid evolution of home networking.

Pat Esser, CEO, Cox

"The handheld HDTV home video camera, due out in 12-to-18 months, was amazing. CES had a lot of focus on the digital home as it relates to content being networked around the home. The space is becoming complex with dozens of players. We keep a few priorities top-of-mind as we navigate these waters:

1) Does the technology create some value in the customer's life?

2) Is it simple, or can we make it simple?

3) Is it bulletproof for mass adoption?

4) Is it standards-based, capable of operating across platforms?

5) Is the product service most likely to be delivered to the home via our network?

Cable is in a great position to enable the technology on display at CES, but there is still much work to do on our customers' behalf."

Charter chairman Paul Allen
(as told to sister publication Communications Technology)

"Eye-popping" was the phrase Paul Allen used to describe the 102-inch HDTV screens on display in Las Vegas. "I'm sure anyone who sees one would love to get one, including me," he said. Still, he was interested in some of the home networking applications on display. "There are a lot of different ways to put home media software on a PC. The MSOs are going to be working with a number of different companies on interconnectivity where you have a PC platform or other platform working together [with other devices] in the home. High-performance media centers are definitely the wave of the future."

Kyle McSlarrow, president and CEO, NCTA

"I was most impressed by Samsung's two-way digital-cable-ready HDTV, which signifies both the trend towards wide-scale consumer adoption of high-definition plus the progress of the cable and consumer electronics industries to develop devices that will allow consumers to enjoy interactive digital services without a set-top box."

Andy Heller, president, domestic distribution, TBS Inc.

"Portability and adaptability were major themes at this year's show. Making content available to consumers when, where and how they want it is key. The Intel announcement about the Viiv platform bringing the PC experience to life on a TV monitor anywhere in the home is also pretty exciting. We're happy that GameTap is going to be a part of that."

Bryan Burns, VP, strategic business planning and development, ESPN

"What really took me by surprise at CES this year was how quality HDTV is becoming more readily available for consumers. I do not mean just in expanding screen sizes (but did you see the 102-inch set!?), but in the decreasing sizes that could be used wirelessly in new locations around your home—from the kitchen, to the office and even your bathroom. Conquering the living room is one thing, but being a real consumer product for the whole house is why HDTV is going to revolutionize the way we live."

Adam Sessler,
co-host of X-Play on G4

"You've seen the Slingbox—that Tobler bar-shaped device that sits among your entertainment gear and streams your live TV, recorded shows and other stored media anywhere in the world over a broadband connection. We awarded it a `Best in Show' when it debuted at last year's CES, but this new version made me fall in love all over again: It now sends that same content to your Windows mobile PDA."

JB Perrette, CFO/SVP, new media, NBC Universal Cable

"Hillcrest Labs has one of the most innovative video program guides I've seen in years. Hillcrest's graphics-driven program guide and `mouse-like' on-screen navigation transforms traditional text-based TV navigation into a much more user-friendly experience."







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