CES UPDATE: Thomson gets connected

Mike O Hara, Thomson s executive vice president, highlighted the company s end-to-end philosophy, which begins with tools from its Grass Valley and Technicolor divisions and extends out to RCA, Jensen and Gyration product lines, at the company s CES press event. But he says the company isn t done yet.

Our focus is to identify the ideal partner for our A/V and accessories business, he says. O Hara will spend the next few months hunting for that partner as Thomson continues to fill out its product line.

One exciting development was the Jensen MPC4000, a small over-the-air receiver that can bring ATSC, NTSC, and FM radio signals to a laptop or desktop via a USB connection. Priced at less than $300 the goal is to let computer users not only view TV signals on a computer but to also record them.

But the company s big CES push was around home networking technologies. A small example of that was a new WiFi-based universal remote control. Users with a WiFi network can use the device to not only control any device in the home but to also access sports scores, news and weather.

On set up you tell it where you live and what equipment you have the remote is automatically updated with the latest programming guide for your area, he says. The user is also provided with news, weather and sports updates that are sent out by zipcode. The unit will be available in a couple of weeks for $299.

Digital audio was also highlighted at the show. Five new products with rip and go functionality (the ability to rip CDs to a hard drive in a bookshelf unit and portable devices. One model also includes Sirius satellite radio functionality but O Hara says more devices will have Sirius functionality by the end of the year.

It s part of the new Sirius effort to create Sirius Connect Home. A Sirius antenna purchased for $49.99 makes it possible to send the Sirius signals to any devices in the home that have the SiriusConnect technology within it.

We ve found a good way to compete with Apple is to go where they aren t, says O Hara. Bookshelf rip-and-play units are part of that strategy.

But it s the Lyra X3000 personal multimedia recorder, that weighs less than 8 ounces and is less than a half-inch thick, that could be a market changer. Doug Lankford, VP Americas Satellite Business, says the new version allows for direct recording of content without the need for a computer. Later this year DirecTV subscribers will be able to get high-speed digital transfers from DirecTV recorders, he says. All DirecTV programs are also organized in a separate folder.

The new media player uses MPEG4 technology and has real time recording from an analog source or up to 10-times faster-than-realtime of digital sources. It also supports Windows Media 10 and has a DivX format converter to make unfamiliar formats compatible with the device. Suggested retail price is $399.

The company also rolled out new home networking products. Karsten Verhaegen, Thomson VP, IP video solutions access platforms and gateways, says the company is working with Akimbo and Movielink for a new RCA Akimbo player that will allow for downloading of video from broadband connections. Subscribers to Akimbo can record up to 150 hours of video. The product will be available this spring.