You would be forgiven for thinking that TV manufacturers were doing pretty well. After all, for the last few years we’ve seen abundance of new products flooding the market: 3D, ultra-skinny backlit LED, 70”+ behemoths, 21:9 ratio sets and OLED is being released later this year. Despite this, all is not well in TV-land. Several manufacturers have recently issues losses (or warnings of losses) in their TV divisions: Panasonic warned of $10.2B loss and reduced projected shipments of TV from 19 million to 18 million sets this year. A few days ago, Sharp announced its worst ever annual loss of $3.8b and said it will cut the output at its largest TV panel factory by 50% to reduce inventory. Sony is predicting losses in its TV business for the 8th consecutive year. Hitachi announced that it will stop making TV’s in its Gifu facility by September this year. In 2011, Philips abandoned TV production. According to flat panel industry research company DisplaySearch, annual global sales of liquid crystal TV’s will contract by 8% by 2015 and plasma will shrink by 38%. The latter not being good news for Panasonic, who are the major manufacturer in this sector. Many of the manufacturers’ problems are caused by fluctuations in the Yen, which has appreciated by almost 25-percent in the last 3 years. This makes exports of Japanese products very expensive in relation to other countries’ products (such as South Korea). In an effort to combat this and the effect of exchange rate fluctuations, many are turning to outsourcing and contract manufacturing. South Korean manufacturers Samsung and LG now produce about one third of all TV’s globally and will ship new OLED products later this year. Vizio has leapt to over 25%. As a result, there has been a lot of shake ups in the Japanese companies while they try and recover. With strong rumors that Apple will launch their TV in the near future, the Japanese manufacturers have little to be positive about.
Recent coverage in the media over worker conditions in the Chinese factories which manufacture Apple's products have "exposed" much of what all of us in the technology industry already knew but were unwilling to accept - that China is the most powerful engine of production for the technology industry, and that the blood, sweat and tears of Chinese workers is what fuels that hungry engine, at a tremendous cost to human rights. The bottom line why all of these manufacturers, Apple included, outsource much of their manufacturing to China is that the labor is cheap, in addition to escaping American taxes and regulatory issues which lower the costs of production. It would be nearly impossible for these companies to stay competitive if they produced electronics in the United States because you would have to pay these workers decent salaries and decent benefits, you would have to conform to American labor laws which significantly reduce the number of hours these people could work, and you could never legally employ child workers. So the sad truth is that in order to feed the world's thirst for the latest and greatest in inexpensive smartphones, tablets, computers and other consumer electronics, a vast number of human beings in China need to suffer.
There are reports that Sony is increasing its LCD panel purchases from LG Display. Sony stopped their partnership with Samsung (Samsung bought Sony's stake in the LCD joint venture). An LGD official is quoted saying that future talks will also cover OLED TV panel outsourcing. LG Display is currently gearing up to start producing 55" OLED TV panels. Their 8.5-Gen pilot line will produce around 48,000 monthly panels - which probably won't be enough to outsource to Sony. But LGD already decided to increase their OLED TV panel capacity (by building a new fab or perhaps converting an LCD line). This will take at least a year and half.
Want to run Boxee on your PC or Mac? Then hurry up; Boxee is removing all copies of its PC-based app from its servers by the end of the day Tuesday to fully concentrate on the Boxee Box. The company announced the move late last year, and Boxee VP of Marketing Andrew Kippen confirmed Monday that the company is going through with its plans, despite some criticism from Boxee's early adopters.
Being held in Amsterdam this week ISE 2012 welcomes over 750 exhibitors amd will be the largest professional AV and systems integration trade show ever held in Europe, bringing together manufacturers, distributors, integrators, specifiers and technology managers from over 100 countries worldwide. AVSystemsMag.com will bring you all the breaking industry news and product announcements via our ISE 2012 Newspage. Click here to visit the ISE Webpage Stay tuned for our ISE 2012 show report.
Being held in Amsterdam this week ISE 2012 welcomes over 750 exhibitors amd will be the largest professional AV and systems integration trade show ever held in Europe, bringing together manufacturers, distributors, integrators, specifiers and technology managers from over 100 countries worldwide. HomeToys.com will bring you all the breaking industry news and product announcements via our ISE 2012 Newspage. Click here to visit the ISE Webpage Stay tuned for our ISE 2012 show report.
Remember that expansion into the gaming space that Netflix was talking about when it launched its Quickster DVD rental service last summer? Those plans seem to be canned together with the whole Quikster idea, according to statements by the company's CEO Reed Hastings on Wednesday's earnings call. However, the company may have another interesting product in store for its streaming subscribers: 3-D movies. "On streaming, that is definitely something we can do and we will be looking at," Hastings said. The company is already offering 3-D Blu-rays for rent, but hasn't said how well these titles are doing. Subscription plans for physical discs have been declining sharply, and Hastings said during the call that he expects these numbers to decline quarter-over-quarter "forever."
Kaleidescape, a prominent manufacturer of high-end movies servers, has lost its latest battle in its eight-year war against the DVD Copy Control Association, the organization that licenses the Content Scramble System (CSS) for DVD players. The DVD CCA sued Kaleidescape in 2004, arguing that its products violate a licensing agreement that expressly prohibits the copying (ripping, archiving) of DVDs. Judge William J. Monahan of the Santa Clara County Superior Court in California issued the tentative judgment favoring the DVD CCA on Jan. 9, 2012. The ruling is subject to revision pending input from the two parties. If it stands as written, the DVD CCA can permanently prohibit Kaleidescape from selling DVD movie servers, unless the disc is present at playback (or some other authentication mechanism is in place) -- effectively killing the movie server category as we know it.. The DVD CCA also may collect court costs.
Amidst the grid-climbing robots, smart thermostats, and electric cars at the smart grid conference DistribuTECH in San Antonio, Texas this week, battery makers were touting their low-cost batteries as energy storage for the grid, for buildings, and some day, homes. It's not so unfeasible that in the future many homes could have their very own battery, likely to be combined with a rooftop solar panel. In Panasonic's booth - the company bought controlling interest in Sanyo back in 2009 - a battery box was featured. The box strings together hundreds of small format lithium-ion laptop batteries in much the way Tesla for its electric car battery. (Note: Tesla also uses Panasonic laptop batteries.) A couple of battery stacks would be enough for a single family home, combined with an inverter already retailing in Germany (one of the largest rooftop solar markets) for less than $5,000. A few years ago there were reports this battery could store a week's worth of electricity.
Horizon Software International, the leader in K-12 food service technology, announces the successful implementation of 100 digital signs throughout the School District of Philadelphia's K-12 school cafeterias. "The successful implementation of SourceBoards throughout the School District of Philadelphia is a major milestone for the partnership between Horizon Software and Touchtown". The SourceBoard solution will allow schools within the district to better communicate with students and faculty through digital signs placed in front of meal lines. The ease of communication will translate to reduced costs and increased efficiency for the schools. In addition, the digital signs will assist with promoting various initiatives important to the school district. Horizon partnered with Touchtown, Inc. (www.touchtown.us) to offer this digital communication medium that allows schools to easily broadcast nutritional information, menus, organization news, activity announcements, videos and more to HDTVs strategically placed throughout their facilities. SourceBoards in the School District of Philadelphia engage students not only in understanding the nutritional values of the foods they are eating, but also in helping them make more informed decisions on their food choices.
Boxee is rolling out some major updates to its connected television platform today, including a new software update to support the company's Live TV stick product, which goes on sale today. The Boxee Box is a streaming set-top box featuring Boxee's open-source media software, which transforms televisions into internet connected media centers. The company announced back in November it would be launching Live TV stick, a $49 addon that acts a high-powered HD antenna to give Boxee Box owners access to local channels like ABC, CBS, Fox, CW and NBC with no monthly fee. Boxee is betting that the combination of free basic live TV channels with videos from services such as YouTube, Netflix, Vimeo and others will be enough for many people to end their expensive cable subscriptions (a.k.a. cut the cord).
Is the AV industry doomed? If it’s the “audio/video” industry, I think so. If all your company does, after years in the industry, is sell and install projectors and screens, or TVs and stereos, then yes, absolutely, that business model is a dying breed. Is the electronic systems contractor/systems integration industry doomed? No. That’s an expanding and growing area, but you need to know where to look and we all need to spur a new “rise” in our industry. As systems integrators, we are perfectly positioned for many emerging disciplines. Click here for full article.
Best Buy gave owners of its Rocketboost wireless audio system a way to steer it independently with both desktop and mobile apps. Both a Windows controller (above) and an iOS app (free, App Store) let users pipe audio from a Rocketboost host device to any Rocketboost audio system on the same local network, including Insignia TVs and soundbars. It lets users mix and match sources and destinations, also giving them a signal strength for each device to give a hint of how reliably it will play. The system depends on having a computer with a USB adapter that makes the RF wireless-based connection to end devices. Rocketboost's main advantage is claimed to be its "HD" audio by using the higher bandwidth RF affords without having to tie the audio to a specific app or using a short-range, narrow bandwidth technology like Bluetooth.
The Stop Online Piracy Act has officially been put on hold. U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) announced that the House Judiciary Committee, which he heads, "will postpone consideration of the legislation until there is wider agreement on a solution." Smith added that he has taken critics' concerns "seriously." "It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products," Smith said in today's statement. The statement from the House Judiciary Committee does not mention SOPA by name, but a committee representative contacted by phone confirmed that it does indeed refer to the Stop Online Piracy Act.
Fujitsu announced the availability of U-Scan® Compact™ self-checkout, a game-changing self-checkout solution that enables more retailers in more verticals to offer a self-checkout experience that is efficient, flexible, and designed to fit into the retailer's unique environment. With its smaller in-counter footprint, flexible transaction options, and build-to-order design strategy, the U-Scan Compact system is the first self-checkout system that can satisfy the needs of retailers in a variety of verticals beyond grocery and do-it-yourself (DIY), including pharmacies, convenience stores, category-specific stores, and specialty stores. In addition, from queue management to automated cash handling, to built-in options to encourage impulse buying, U-Scan Compact self-checkout can create the ideal checkout experience for each retailer's target customer. The new Fujitsu U-Scan Compact system will be on display at the National Retail Federation's (NRF) Big Show in New York, January 16-17.
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Automation & Control - Featured Product
Smart Bulbs are out there and they can do far more then just provide light. Speakers, projectors, wi-fi extenders and more. The standard light socket that is wired up and ready to go in nearly every home in North America is now providing an easy and affordable option for home owners and renters alike to enter into the world of the "Smart Home". Here is a look at some of the Smart Bulbs and Smart Lighting options out there, and this list is just the beginning. In this ongoing article we hope to continue to add to and grow this list, so stay tuned!