by Peter H. Putman
INFOCOMM '99 is over, and what a show. I'm hard-pressed to remember so many new product launches in a single venue! As disappointing as NAB '99 was for product and manufacturer news, INFOCOMM more than made up for it. From ultraportables to plasma; DTV to light valves, and DLP to LCDs, INFOCOMM had something for everyone....from the Projection Shoot-Out (a complete analysis will appear on this web site in late July) to Projector Encounter, there was no shortage of exhibits in which you could stand and watch high-quality video and computer images.
Although I didn't get to visit each and every booth (there were, after all, over 400 of 'em), I was able to meet with numerous manufacturers to talk about new products, upcoming goodies and the industry in general. In between booth visits, private meetings and 5 hours in the Shoot-Out, I also managed to conduct two seminars on plasma displays and digital television, as well as participate in the Presentation Displays panel on Thursday afternoon.
Without further ado, some news and observations culled from my numerous walks about the trade show floor:
ULTRAPORTABLES: The biggest news was, of course, Sharp Electronics entering the sub-6 lb category with their Notevision 7, a single-DMD (yep, DMD!) XGA carry-along for video and data. Sharp? DLP? Somehow those two words don't seem to belong in the same sentence, but as I was told, "DMDs are the way to go to be competitive in the 'featherweight' projector category" - so far. Sharp was joined by Panasonic with their PT-D7, another single-DMD XGA box. Incidentally, both the NV7 and PT-D7 derive from the PLUS chassis (also offered by NEC), but I understand Sharp has made major improvements to the video quality.
In Focus had plenty of LP330 Dragonflys around, but I'm not sure of their availability just yet. Proxima has the LX-1 and will likely come up with a new featherweight closer in size to the PLUS and its many clones. Sony seems to like the "upright" projector design, introducing the VP-PX1 XGA LCD ultraportable projector. NEC displayed the latest iteration of DLP technology with new 5-pound ultras (LT-84 and LT-140), and even ViewSonic is getting into the ultraportable game (with DMDs), and showing the PJL830 and PJL1030 SVGA and XGA boxes, respectively. And of course, Epson now has "hotter" versions of its ultras - the PowerLite 5550C and 7550C, which crank along at 850 and 900 lumens, respectively.
Significantly, Compaq made a suite appearance at the show to reveal their CTX-built single-DMD projector. It's a unique, vertical design that has a snap-on video input and no zoom lens. With the snap-on video adapter (composite and SVHS), the size of the projector doesn't really change at all, so why not just leave it on? Also, the lack of a zoom lens is a drawback in my opinion - even the Sony VPL-SC60 has a 1.3:1 zoom. According to the folks at Compaq, their research indicated that the vertical design was preferred and the zoom lens wasn't necessary. (I think someone was pulling their leg!)
In the "Back From The Dead" department, Davis - whom many of us had given up for gone - made its first major trade show appearance since last year's INFOCOMM, and with an entirely new crew. Apparently, there was a top-down purge of the company after its recent sale, and a whole new organization is in place. Gone is the 60" DLP monitor (a dog, in my opinion) and in its place are two new portables based on the DL450 chassis - the DLS8 (SVGA) and DLX10 (XGA). Chatani in NYC will be the U.S. distributor, and there's even a "baby" in the wings - the DPX16, another 5-pound flyweight projector (Coming to a showroom near you soon! Check newspapers...)
Who doesn't have a DMD-engined ultraportable yet? Hitachi, for one. But I expect that'll change since their inking of an agreement with TI to build an HDTV projection TV with DMDs. Epson is still standing on the wings, as is Sony - will we see DMD-engined "ultras" from either of the principal manufacturers of polysilicon LCDs? (Remember, Sharp only makes amorphous LCDs - not polysilicon, which they buy from Sony and use in the Notevision series.) Mitsubishi might be another viable candidate, given their recent deal with TI to manufacture all-digital consumer HD sets.
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