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Getting Wired Electronics Manufacturers Pitch Wares At Annual Extravaganza

Sat., Jan. 6, 1996

Major companies showed off next-generation compact discs, able to hold an entire movie or all of Beethoven’s symphonies, as the Consumer Electronics Show opened Friday.

Expected to be in stores this fall, the new discs, called DVDs, and their $500 players are viewed by some companies as the most significant advance in years for the industry.

But innovation comes in all shapes at CES ranging from a voice-activated navigation system for driving to a digital pacifier for taking a baby’s temperature.

And having a phone that rings seems a bit out of date. There’s a new way to have cellular phones vibrate instead of ring and there’s a telephone with an Elvis statue that gyrates and plays “Jailhouse Rock” when a call comes.

Meanwhile, away from the main show hall, as always, were hopeful entrepreneurs with products that solve everyday problems. For instance, Chris Jones, a marathoner who said ordinary stereo headphones hurt when he runs, displayed “SweatTunes,” a $10 sweatband he created with headphones inside.

His company, Marvelous Creations of Hallandale, Fla., just came up with a new version that fits inside ski headbands, which is called “Snow Tunes” and costs $20.

“This is an alternative way of listening for the active person,” Jones said.

At the big booths inside the Las Vegas Convention Center, the focus was on DVDs. The trade show is the first where major manufacturers like Toshiba, Sony, Matsushita and Philips publicly displayed their prototype DVD players.

Many of the machines were refined during the past month after the companies arrived at final technical standards, ending months of debate. Executives are confident production will be up to speed by next Christmas but sales expectations vary widely.

Sony executives, for instance, expressed a conservative view that only about 500,000 machines would be sold in their first year of availability. Other companies’ forecasts for industrywide sales ranged up to 1 million.

“A lot is depending on software availability,” said Robert Minkhorst, president and chief executive of Philips Consumer Electronics Co. “Most of the software companies, the movie studios, have endorsed this. We could see 200 to 500 titles.”

The discs look like today’s CDs but have a storage capacity that is seven to 14 times greater. That means they can hold more music, video images or other data.

About 80,000 people are attending CES, down about 20,000 from recent years after major video game makers, including Sega and Nintendo, pulled out. They will participate this May in the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, which focuses solely on video games.

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