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CEATEC '09 - Sharp, Sony and Panasonic

Dragging myself away from the Toshiba stand, I couldn't help but notice that while Toshiba was busy taking its tuner and connections out of the Cell Regza and putting them into an external box, Sharp and Panasonic were busy tucking extra features inside their TVs.

Panasonic was showing a plasma range, the R series, with built-in hard disk recorders, while Sharp was showing a new generation of TVs sporting built-in Blu-ray recorders. Enquiries at both companies' stands suggest that neither range is likely to get an imminent UK release, alas. But such recorder combi products are, I'm sure, set to become more common here as more people catch up with the new digital recorder age.

You might be thinking at this point that we haven't mentioned Sony very much in the course of this feature - at least in a positive way! But there's a good reason for this, namely that other than its 3D booths - which had already been seen at September's IFA in Berlin - the Japanese megacorps really didn't have anything significantly new to report. A fact amusingly confirmed by a member of Sony's international team when asked for help.

Sony didn't even have anything really exciting to shout about on the OLED front, unless the idea of wearing a bangle with a flexible screen wrapped around it really excites you much.

In fact, try as I might, I'm struggling to find anything else innovative to report on from the show other than the facts that Sharp was finally showing off an online service for its TVs - something that should filter through in some form to its 2010 flat TV range - while Panasonic was showing off a NeoLCD screen for 2010 to accompany the second generation of its NeoPDP plasma TVs.

Why is the 32in NeoLCD screen on show different from Panasonic's 'old' LCDs? Mostly because it marks the brand's first use of direct LED backlighting. But also because it's claimed to deliver better blacks, richer colours, more sharpness and greatly improved motion response over any standard Panasonic LCD seen to date.

And so I think, after one last check of my notes, that that's it for CEATEC 2009 - a show that had its moments, but which ultimately fell short of last year's efforts.

If I manage to get out to Tokyo again next year, therefore, I really hope that a) there are more exhibitors, b) 3D is able to make a more widespread convincing case for itself than it did this year, and c) there are more fun new AV concepts to tickle my fancy.

There's one more thing, too - namely a solemn promise I won't start any future CEATEC reports with hoary old weather analogy cliches. Unless, of course, sunny skies over Tokyo in 2010 happen to coincide with a resurgent global economy, in which case I might not be able to restrain myself…

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