Monday, January 7

Look Out Apple: Philips is All About Design in '08

LAS VEGAS – It looks like the iPhone is having an impact on gadgets other than phones and handhelds.

In Philips Electronics' press conference today at CES, Philips Consumer Lifestyle CEO Andrea Ragnetti announced the company would emphasize a "smoother," "European," "minimalistic" and "feminine" design for its upcoming products.

Not only that, but Ragnetti borrowed a Jobs-ism and said the company will "reinvent television" with its new Design Collection product line.

Just Like A Jaguar

The Philips Design Collection will be a three-tiered product line that emphasizes style just as much as function. Like car models, the Design Collection will be available in the 7000, 5000, and 3000 series, depending on the products' feature sets.

Judging from the gadgets displayed on a video screen during the presentation, this means a lot more Bang & Olufsen-looking gear coming out of Philips' product stable: a lot of rounded edges, curves, ambient lighting, and details aimed at the user experience rather than "technology for technology’s sake," according to Ragnetti.

Ragnetti and Philips Senior Vice President of U.S. Sales Stewart Muller pointed to the growing role of women in making technology purchasing decisions as a major factor in Philips' design-oriented approach for 2008. In the press conference, they stated that market research had shown women gravitated more towards stylish products, and that the design-focused new product lines were a market-driven decision.

Entertainment By Design

Philips officials also said it's not just about form over function. As part of the Design Collection line, Muller showed a video of the 7000 series Design Collection Ultimate Dream TV LCD HDTV. With rounded edges, a 1080p resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, and a sharp 52-inch diagonal screen, it certainly looks good. But the (literally) hidden jewel of the set looks to be its "Invisible Sound System."

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The audio comes from the back of the set and is projected toward the viewer through the HDTV's forward-curving bezel. Muller said that the sound system is not only aesthetically pleasing in that there are no side speakers or visible holes in the set, but that the design actually enhances the set's sound performance when compared to traditional on-board speakers.

A Little Music

In addition to the sleeker gadgets, Philips also announced a partnership with RealNetworks' Rhapsody music service that will bring full Rhapsody integration to future Philips music devices. This includes future additions to the GoGear line of MP3 players and the Streamium line of in-home music streamers.

Also shown off – albeit only via a video presentation – were a handful of other eye-catching gadgets.

From the looks of it, the just-announced HTS6515D Ambisound home-theater system offers up 5.1 surround sound, an integrated iPod dock, and a very sleek design.

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The BDP7200 Blu-ray player looks pretty slick, too, and continued the CES-wide "stick a fork in HD DVD" theme that is already taking shape.

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The BTM630 is an interesting Bluetooth tabletop audio system. It has an iPod dock and can stream music wirelessly from Bluetooth-enabled cell phones and MP3 players; when a call comes in, it purportedly pauses the music and doubles as a speakerphone.

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All this new Philips gear definitely looked fashionable (and expensive), but the real fashion show took place at the end of the presentation. As two models walked down the center of the conference room, Muller announced new additions to Philips and Swarovski's Active Crystals collection. This is a set of gadgets that double as jewelry. We’re talking heart- and padlock-shaped USB pendants and jewel-encrusted earbuds.

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I guess this is Vegas; we should expect to see some USB-enabled bling.

Read PC World's ongoing coverage of this giant technology show at our CES InfoCenter.

via PC World

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