2001 CES Begins with Optimistic Predictions

The largest of six divisions of Royal Philips Electronics, Philips Consumer Electronics Mainstream intends to push the audio industry in several directions this year, according to a presentation made by the division's CEO Guy Demuynck at a January 5 press conference in the Las Vegas Convention Center. Long a dominant force in research and development, as well as in marketing consumer electronics, Philips has great hopes for every segment of the audio market. 2000 was a record year for the company, Demuynck said, and 2001 should be very good as well.

For those who prefer music by the ton, the company offers the CDR-820, a 3-disc carousel player/recorder with MP3-CD capability, a format that will put 10 hours of compressed music on a single disc. Also being introduced is the FW-i1000, the "world's first Internet radio." A mini-system with CD and speakers, the FW-i1000 can connect to the more than 1000 audio streaming sites (or "Internet radio stations") now online—without the need for a personal computer. Philips has taken to heart studies showing that the popularity of Internet radio has doubled since 1999.

The FW-i1000 is but one of a growing number of Internet-enabled products that Philips will introduce in the near future. "The Internet has transformed the way we do business," Demuynck stated, referring not only to communications and promotions but to product design as well. "We intend to put Internet capabilities into many products, making Internet content as accessible as pressing a single button on a TV remote. The Internet dominates all our thinking—it will expand from a browsing activity to an always-on, integral part of daily life," he said.

With over 800 million of its CD products now in consumers' possession, Philips has great confidence in the continuing strength of the format. Demuynck believes that CD recorders will enjoy an increasing popularity in 2001, with Philips as the market leader. The new year is also part of "an exciting new chapter in audio," according to Demuynck, who proudly revealed Philips' plan to begin marketing its SACD-1000, winner of an "Innovation Award" presented here by the Industrial Designers Society of America (ISDA). The $2000 machine will offer multichannel capabilities, and will play DVD videodiscs, making it the ideal source for audiophiles with combined music and home theater systems.

Record labels strongly support the format. More than 235 SACD titles are now available, encompassing "all types of music by major artists," in Demuynck's words, "and all of [it] compatible with existing CD players. We believe in exponential growth for the SACD hybrid." The SACD-1000 should appear in showrooms toward the end of January. At the Philips conference, no mention was made of DVD-Audio, a promising format that seemed to be missing in action so far at CES, at least on the day before the Show officially opens.

Sony's pre-show press conference followed on the heels of Philips' with the announcement of the SCD-C555ES Multi-Channel SACD/CD 5-Disc Changer. Sony calls this the industry's first multi-channel SACD changer, and plans to make it available in April for about $1700. Sony also presented its SCD-CE775 Multi-Channel SACD/CD 5-Disc Changer, incorporating many of the technologies found in the SCD-C555ES at a price point around $400 (!). It is slated for release in July.

Sony also announced its RCD-W1 CD-R/RW home recorder, sporting a 4x speed dubbing function, which will allow it to record a standard CD in about 20 minutes. According to Sony, a 24-bit D/A converter and a 20-bit A/D converter are featured in the deck, which will be available in February for about $500.

On the digital radio front, Sony previewed its DRN-XM01 XM Satellite Radio Receiver which Sony claims can accept up to 100 satellite broadcast channels of "digital quality" music, news, sports, talk, and children's audio programming. The transportable plug-n-play receiver, which will be available this summer, will cost around $400 for the car, $300 for the home. Sony says XM Satellite Radio will provide the programming services.