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CES: Philips Discusses Blu-ray, FlatTV and Ambisound

Philips is a powerhouse when it comes to electronics, whether you’re talking HDTVs, home-entertainment systems, digital photo frames or toothbrushes. At CES 2008, the company came to the show with both barrels loaded, showing off its first Profile 1.1 Blu-ray Disc player, a new 700 Series for its FlatTV line and a new Ambisound Home Theater System. With the rush of product announcements at CES, some of Philips’ items ironically got lost in the shuffle. Between meetings and demos, we had a chance to catch up briefly with John Morog, Philips’ national training manager, to see if he could “train” us a bit more on the three new items in which DailyGame readers would most likely be interested.

BDP7200 Blu-ray Disc Player

The BDP7200 is Philips’ first Profile 1.1 Blu-ray Disc player. With Blu-ray and HD-DVD both now having picture-in-picture functionality, do you think the so-called “high-definition format war” will move closer toward resolution, or will it just further confuse consumers?

Ultimately consumers will decide on this outcome, but as more studios announce their support for Blu-ray, clearly that will influence. Consumers aren’t confused. What impacts consumer decisions is primarily price and available selection.

So how involved are Philips and other Blu-ray hardware manufacturers in discussions about future BD functionality? Is your R&D team asked “we think this is cool, can you do it?” or is it more of a “this is the functionality we’re creating on the software/coding side; make it work”?

Consumer needs are always at the forefront when products are being developed. Our team is actively engaged in discussions about future BD functionality based on those needs.

When designing Blu-ray hardware, how do you find a balance between making the hardware itself “future proof” and relying on firmware updates? Does the prevalence of broadband Internet in the home make it easier to ship hardware faster than before?

We ensure that our newly released products are of the highest quality and meet the latest functionality requirements. However, given the evolving nature of the BD content requirement, it is inevitable that firmware upgrades will be needed to support the latest BD content requirement and we will make sure our products are capable of being updated for such new functionalities.

What types of features and functionality do you anticipate seeing (or would you like to see) in Blu-ray Profile 1.2 and, eventually, 2.0 and down the line?

We expect more exciting features in Blu-ray Profile 2.0, also known as BDLive, such as: wireless connection to content provider sites, online shopping for movie memorabilia, online gaming with others

FlatTV 7000 Series

With the FlatTV 7000 series, Philips has answered the debate of “form versus function” by addressing both in the same design. How exactly does the curved-bezel design of the 7000 FlatTV enhance the set’s performance?

It is the idea of performance through design. By combining design with performance we have created the complete package — creating a visually stimulating experience. The pleasing look of the TV, with no speakers and rounded edges, and the improved sound quality combined with the fantastic picture is something we are tremendously proud of, and we know our customers will love it.

Putting the speakers in the back is a bold move, considering how accustomed people are to mounting their HDTVs on the wall or cramming them as close to a wall as possible. What was the engineering/testing environment like, and how long did you test, to ensure that the sound comes through perfectly regardless of the set’s distance from a wall?

The speakers are not all in the back. In fact, the dialogue speakers are built into the bottom and the sound is pushed down and out from all around the sides of the tv. The speakers in the back primarily support base subwoofer activity.

The 7000 FlatTV series looks gorgeous. Design has always been important to home theater enthusiasts, but has Apple’s push toward fashion technology put all consumer electronics on the same page design-wise?

Design is a strong focus for us as a company overall. We also listen to our customers that demand something that fits in with their lifestyle and are proud to have in their home, not something to hide in a cabinet. In addition, women are starting to have a bigger influence on consumer electronic purchases and we took that into consideration on this design.

Some people argue that the human eye can only detect so much detail, whether it be black levels or refresh rate, which in their mind renders many hardware advances moot. Implementing ClearLCD technology and HD Digital Natural Motion seems to indicate that Philips feel otherwise. Do you anticipate reaching a point where HDTV manufacturers finally deliver the “perfect” HDTV, or where consumers finally say “OK, this is good enough”?

Technology is always evolving and improving. It’s never going to be good enough! There is always going to be something better just around the corner. The exciting part is finding out what that “something” is.

Philips must anticipate that the biggest consumer for the 7000 FlatTV series will be A/V enthusiasts, considering its four HDMI 1.3a inputs. If that’s the case, why did Philips put such energy into the Invisible Sound System with WooX technology, when those enthusiasts will likely use an external audio receiver anyway?

For the casual viewer, and external AR isn’t always needed. Even the biggest enthusiast has times where they just watch TV without all the bells and wistles. I’m a huge AV geek but when I’m watching the news in the bedroom, I just want to watch the news and I’m not as concerned with the audio as I would be when I’m watching a movie.

Why did Philips decide to include no smaller than a 42-inch set in the 7000 FlatTV line? Do sales indicate that consumers aren’t buying smaller than 42″ anymore?

The audience for this line of TVs typically seeks out a larger screen, and we build what our consumers want. We have a TV for everyone…, but those in the market for a 7000 series want something in the 42″-52″ range.

Ambisound Home Theater Systems (HTS6100 and HTS6515D)

The Ambisound Home Theater models HTS6100 and HTS6515D try to “achieve full surround sound performance with fewer speakers.” That seems acoustically impossible, considering the hardware only uses a single panel/source. How do the Ambisound systems pull this off considering that consumers’ entertainment rooms are all configured and built differently?

Flexibility is the key. Both models allow for the user to customize by entering information about the room such as where windows or curtains may be and the distance between walls. Also, there is one panel, but it houses 6 speakers.

Considering these robust systems release in May 2008, the inclusion of a standard DVD player is surprising — particularly in light of Philips’ efforts in the Blu-ray space. Was this simply a price-point decision, or did other factors contribute?

Price is always a factor. We have found that consumers currently have a vast library of DVDs that they want to continue to access, so we included the standard DVD player for this market.

Do you think not including a Blu-ray player in the Ambisound Home Theater will have any detrimental impact on sales?

No, it won’t. Simply because of the number of consumers that currently have standard DVDs.

Integrating an iPod dock into the hardware is brilliant. Was that a “no brainer,” or did it lead to some discussion in terms of implementing it effectively yet fashionably?

It was a no brainer. So many people have iPods these days; it wasn’t really an option to not include it.

Thanks to Philips and John Morog for discussing these products with us during the insanity of CES.

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