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The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is on the horizon, and this year, the name of the game is high definition (HD). Throughout the coming weeks, companies will release a variety of consumer-based products and announce long-term plans for hardware and software, but one major recurring theme will be networking consumer technologies that have HD capabilities.

(We’re putting aside for a moment the fact that the first-generation connected devices never quite materialized in the manner that Apple and Microsoft, among others, had hoped.)

What is sure to dominate the news is the release of “dual format” DVD players.

The South Korean firm LG unveiled its LG player, a DVD player that supports both the Blu-ray and HD DVD discs, the two competing HD DVD formats. That announcement follows on the heels of news that Time Warner will also unveil a “dual DVD” player.

These devices could ultimately end the HD DVD format war, which is reminiscent of the VHS-versus-Betamax row that took place in the 1980s. Ultimately, the superior Betamax technology fell to the lower-priced VHS format, but not before raising the ire of customers who were forced to choose one format over the other (and movie studios that were forced to do the same).

Still, the big events–the watercooler moments–will come when Bill Gates and Steve Jobs deliver their annual keynote addresses. Gates will open the CES show, in Las Vegas, with a talk about Microsoft’s vision for the connected mobile lifestyle; in San Francisco, Jobs will do the same for Apple at MacWorld.

And yet, despite all the hype about current DVD formats and emerging network-connected consumer devices, the big technology discussions will likely revolve around wireless connectivity, which has been the story for the past 18 months. Companies and consumers continue to look toward the emerging wireless market as the next great center of growth.

Samsung is set to announce the development of a technology that would “broadcast digital television signals to car screens and to devices such as DVD, game and music players, with an aim to creating a standard for portable digital television,” according to this Reuters story. With research projects such as Ball State University’s Digital Middletown, which is exploring the development of HD wireless delivery systems, there’s little doubt that the next-generation product lines will all need to be HD ready.

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