We're about to get underway at Sharp's Press Conference here at CES 2009 with 3 speakers. They also fed us lunch so Sharp already wins CES in my mind, but I'm easily swayed by a free club sandwich.
12:04 PM PT - Doug Koshima, CEO and Chairman of Sharp Electronics, takes the stage and immediately turns to the recession, but Sharp is confident it can weather the storm and emerge as a stronger corporation. Sharp expects a 16% decrease in LCD TV business in 2009 over 2008, but then expects a 10% increase in 2010 (Source: DisplaySearch).
Furthermore, Sharp's new LCD factory is set to be operational in March 2010, which will reduce costs for Sharp and make it the first company to use 10th generation glass panels that will yield 6 60" panels, 8 50" panels, and 15 40" panels from a single sheet. The factory will also produce other components needed to produce LCD panels as well as solar cells, which is Sharp's other major business.
12:09 PM PT - Sharp is still standing firm against OLED technologies and still believes the technology isn't "ready for prime-time." Sharp will use RGB-LED backlighting with local dimming to further improve contrast ratios.
Sharp is fully behind LCD technology (as they should be... they're building a huge new factory as discussed) and hopes to make them more environmentally friendly.
12: 11 PM PT - Mike Troetti, President Sharp of Marketing for America, takes the stage to talk about Sharp's American business over 2008. Sharp displays have continually placed in the top 3 for LCD's during December and the company hit a 10% increase in unit growth.
Mike mentioned the availability of gaming consoles with 1080p outputs as a factor in LCD HDTV growth as well as noting that the upcoming digital TV transition could yield sales for consumers making a TV upgrade during the transition.
Again, I'm hearing that people will be more likely to stay home during the economic downturn and see HDTV's as a good investment for a lot of entertainment.
12:16 PM PT - In 2009, Sharp will introduce more products that will give consumers a "home-theater experience" and the company will use Blu-Ray technology to expand into other product lines including an AQUOS HDTV with a built-in Blu-Ray drive.
Sharp has expanded their AQUOS Advantage service to 37" and 32" TV owners and more than 150,000 owners have already signed up for the "expanded customer service."
Sharp enters year two as the "Official HDTV of Major League Baseball" and the sponsorship has been working well for Sharp. Several players will be here at CES to sign autographs because tech nerds are the biggest baseball fans ever.
Sharp has also entered into a partnership with NBC,which will provide content for AQUOS Net.
The company and several partners will setup 280 MRM recycling locations in the United States where consumers can drop off old video and audio gear at no cost to recycle them safely. There will be at least one MRM facility in each state.
12:23 PM PT - Sharp will "continue to rollout" their Sharp Solar Academy classes to schools around the United States, which teach children about ways to utilize solar energy to conserve power.
Next up, Bob Scaglione, Senior Vice President of Sharp Electronics Marketing for America. He's here to talk about the new product line-up for 2009. The focus in the past has been on making TV's as large as possible with Sharp's 108" TV remaining the largest comercially available display.
Now, the focus is on value, and with that he introduces the AQUOS BD Series, which features a built-in Blu-Ray drive available in 5 sizes: 52", 46", 42", 37", and 32". The models will also come with a new blue-ish design and rotating stand. The BD models clock in at 120Hz and 1080p with two brand-new picture-enhances features: AQUOS Pure Mode, which detects Blu-Ray content and automatically sets the resolution... it's 1080p, look it up, Sharp. It also has the Superlucent Panel, an ultra smooth finish on the display that reduces glare from ambient light-sources, to enhance picture quality.
The E67U series will come in two sizes: 40" and 32" that have a full 1080p picture, and four HDMI inputs. The 32" model will also sport the game-enhancing Vyper-Drive, which reduces the display's response time.
12:31 PM PT - AQUOS Net will get three new partners for ethernet-enabled HDTV's including RallyPoint, which will let users access fantasy sports and social networks, and ScreenDreams, which supply 1080p images that can serve as high-def screensavers or "pieces of art."
New Blu-Ray players! Basically just adding BD-Live support to two players, better audio decoding, and lower power consumption. The prices, however, are lower than the PlayStation 3.
Sharp will debut new 5.1 home theater systems that include a Blu-Ray player, which will drop this Spring for $799. Additionally, Sharp is getting into the "sound bar" business with their new 2.1 bar that simulates surround sound. The first model will be available later this month for $249.
iPod docks! Wait, what? Did I just pass out and wake up at CES 2006?
That's it. It's over. It's was much less focused on new technologies than the other companies and it seems like Sharp is truly living in the now. They aren't pushing to 240Hz like the other companies, but are adding full LED Backlighting to displays.
Sharp's AQUOS Net still looks like it'll be primarily widget based and not move toward video content at this point. In fact, it currently doesn't even support video, but Sharp is looking to eventually release a "version 2" of the service that could include video. They did feed me lunch, however, so I'm still cool with them.