Consumer Electronics Show Offers Showcase for San Diego Tech Companies
[Corrected 1/5/10, 2:45 pm. See below.] “Connectivity” will be one of the prevailing themes at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show, according to analyst John F. Bright of the investment banking firm Avondale Partners. And several San Diego firms are poised to get connected at the show, which officially begins Thursday in Las Vegas.
[Correction: Entropic Communications is a public, not privately held, company] Connecting devices in the home encompasses the core business of Entropic Communications, (NASDAQ: ENTR) a fabless semiconductor company in San Diego that has developed technologies that provide connectivity to home entertainment systems. Entropic is among many companies that plans to showcase its latest innovations at the four-day show, which is expected to draw 110,000 attendees before closing Sunday.
Another San Diego company at CES is DivX, (NASDAQ: DIVX) the digital media technology company that specializes in video compression. Bright says DivX is expected to demonstrate technology related to its September acquisition of AnySource Media, a Pennsylvania company with technology that allows users to directly connect their TV to a wide variety of Internet-based content and services. He writes in his preview that a key question for DivX is whether the Anysource technology, which is designed to facilitate browsing on Internet-connected TVs, is approaching marketability.
VMIX, a privately held San Diego company that also specializes in digital video technology, has been focused on providing its media clients monetization strategies as well as a complete video platform, according to spokesman Bill Curci. As part of that continuing effort, VMIX CEO Mike Glickenhaus is participating in a CES panel discussion on “Monetizing Digital Content” that is set for noon Saturday. (Other local digital media companies headed for CES include Carlsbad, CA-based Sorenson Media and Veoh Networks.)
Under the heading of mobile connectivity, Avondale’s Bright points to San Diego-based Novatel Wireless (NASDAQ: NVTL) which specializes in USB modem cards for laptops and related broadband access technologies. Novatel has focused much of its marketing efforts in recent months on its credit card-sized MiFi wireless router, which converts a cellular 3G signal into a Wi-Fi bubble so Wi-Fi computers and gadgets can get online anywhere.
A major San Diego technology company not on Bright’s list is Qualcomm, which has pushed into an unfamiliar role as a consumer-facing business with its Flo TV mobile television network. The wireless giant has long served as a major, albeit behind-the-scenes, supplier of wireless technologies for mobile network operators and other big businesses, and Qualcomm provides Flo TV to consumers with Flo TV-enabled cell phones as an add-on subscriber service through Verizon and AT&T. But Qualcomm also introduced its handheld Flo TV device as a $250 mobile personal TV just in time for Christmas, and the company has been marketing the gadget to sports fans and youngsters.
Qualcomm’s foray into consumer markets also helps to explain why 2010 marks the first time that the San Diego company’s chairman and CEO has agreed to deliver a keynote address at the international conference (which has a predicted attendance this year of 110,000). Qualcomm’s Paul Jacobs, who is set to speak Friday morning at the Las Vegas Hilton, has been the primary driver in the company’s emphasis on accelerating wireless data services. As a result, mobile devices based on Qualcomm technology are moving beyond voice communications—expanding into entertainment, social networking, computing, and information access.
Other keynote speakers scheduled for the four-day conference include Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, Ford’s Alan Mulally, Intel’s Paul Otellini, Nokia’s Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, and Hisense’s Zhou Houjian.
Another major player to watch at CES this week will be Japan’s Sony Electronics, which was once the world’s leading brand for premium-priced consumer electronics. Sony Electronics maintains its North American headquarters in San Diego. The company still makes Vaio laptops at its suburban manufacturing plant in Rancho Bernardo, which also hosts Sony’s new center for research and engineering development. But it’s been a long time since the maker of Walkman radios and Trinitron TVs has led the industry, and the Japanese goliath has been undergoing wrenching organizational changes over the past year under CEO Howard Stringer.
A Sony spokeswoman in San Diego would not discuss the company’s plans for CES, even in a general way, except to say, “I would say that our TV announcements are going to be huge.”
Sony could be among the major consumer electronics manufacturers with plans to introduce 3-D television technology at this year’s CES. CNET’s John Falcone is among those who predicts 3-D TV will be the biggest trend at this year’s show, but Falcone remains doubtful that consumers are ready for 3-D and he calls the industry’s enthusiasm “premature.”
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