Where's the innovation, Toshiba?

By Peter Nowak, CBCNews.ca.

LAS VEGAS - Two years in a row, Toshiba proves to be a bust at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Last year, the Japanese company had the rug pulled out from under it when Warner Bros announced it was dropping support of HD DVD in favour of Blu-ray.

The announcement, made just before last year's CES began, effectively ended the next-generation DVD format battle with Blu-ray the clear winner. Toshiba, HD DVD's main backer, was left to limp into its own press conference, which was significantly abbreviated and short on new product announcements.

If this year's press conference, held on Wednesday, was any indication, Toshiba still hasn't recovered.

The company shared its long-term plans to incorporate IBM's Cell processor into its LCD televisions, which may greatly increase the screen resolution. But other than that, the company was short on new ideas.

Toshiba instead spent most of its alloted hour touting the incremental improvements to its Regza LCD line for 2009. It was a whole lot of talk regarding frame rates and contrast ratios - topics that nobody but the hardest of hard-core techies cares about anymore.

Even worse, the company made a big deal about its upconverting standard-definition DVD players and its LCD-DVD combo televisions, which feature an attached DVD player tucked in behind the screen. Obviously Toshiba is too proud to swallow its pride and get with the times by offering a Blu-ray player, like every other major manufacturer.

More bewildering still are the company's plans to incorporate wireless networking into the living room.

Toshiba's strategy includes using Microsoft's Windows Media Extender, which has historically been a nightmare to use. (Not surprisingly, Toshiba's presentation included Powerpoint slides with a complex array of arrows pointing in different directions.) Consumers have largely rejected Microsoft so far as an option to connect their living rooms to sources of networked content for this very reason, so it's hard to understand why Toshiba is going this route.