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Still huge market for Personal Entertainment Devices

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Many think a personal entertainment device (PED) comprise a set of headphones and an MP3 player, but that’s the beginning. Users need to look at other devices like SD cards and flat-screen TVs before they have a true PED, writes BRIAN PEREIRA.

On a recent visit to a well-known electronics store in Mumbai, I was disappointed to note the limited choices in personal entertainment devices (PEDs). In this age of mobile phones and tablets, which have enough capacity to hold thousands of songs and a few movies, one might ask if there is a need for a PED. You just need a Bluetooth speaker and your home LCD TV — and the set up is complete, right?

Wrong.

A true PED must incorporate a combination of the following: support for diverse media (thumb drive, SD card, aux-in); high-fidelity audio; radio reception; high resolution video; voice recording; ability to copy media (remember mix tapes?); portability (small form factor); sound amplification; mixer; equalizer; connectivity options (for hooking the device to external amplifiers, mixers etc).

My search for the perfect PED took me to Lamington road, Mumbai’s electronics district. And here I saw elements of the perfect PED in an assortment of devices, mostly imported from China and Taiwan.

I remember my visit to that district in the 1980s. Every second shop was selling two-in-ones and three-in-ones — cassette player, radio, and later CD player.

And whenever anyone returned from a “foreign trip” it was customary to buy a shiny, sleek two-in-one with the word “STEREO” prominently printed on its fascia. Stereo sound was a big deal then, even though speaker technology in portables was a long way from delivering punchy bass — present in the “boom boxes” that arrived in the 1990s.

And in 1979, we were introduced to the Walkman and its high fidelity stereo sound.

Well, those were the PED’s of the 1980s and 1990s.

With the advent of the Apple iPod, smart phones, and the digitization of music, manufacturers stopped making those PEDs. Only a handful of them continue to manufacture two-in-ones today, with the cassette player now replaced by a DVD/CD player. Yet, very few of those devices are compatible with today’s media (SD cards, thumb drive) and fewer support Bluetooth connectivity. So, essentially, those PEDs are revamped versions of what you could get in the 1990s — with minor technology enhancements.

AN OPPORTUNITY

However, I do see a lot of progress in car entertainment systems. Touchscreen interfaces, LED displays for movies, USB connectors, advanced amplification, fancy graphics…

I think Pioneer, Sony, Kenwood, Blaupunkt and others could use this technology to create a new class of PEDs for the home. This new class of PEDs could be portable (like the old 2-in-ones), yet have a design and form factor that blends in with the living room and other home entertainment devices.

What about hard disk-based media players and media servers? These do exist but have not yet become mainstream. Perhaps manufacturers need to work on the pricing and marketing aspects. The technology can also be advanced to include support for all our media storage — pen drives, SD cards etc.

The new PEDs should also support multiple video and photo formats, and offer HDMI connectivity to TVs.

I’m sure that with the right set of features and right pricing, these devices can be the new PEDs that everyone will want to buy on the next foreign trip. Well, actually, things have changed a lot in India, and we could just buy these online in future!

I’m ready to consult for any consumer electronics company that wants to make the new PED.

* Brian Pereira is a veteran technology journalist/analyst from India. He’s been tracking consumer and enterprise technology trends since 1990. Follow him on Twitter on @brian9p

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CES: And thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for making and enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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