THIS WEEK'S International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas highlighted not only the latest in home-entertainment gadgetry but also some emerging fault lines in Hollywood's approach to the digital era.
In addition to the customary array of ever-larger flat screens and ever-smaller portable devices, manufacturers showed off a growing number of things that could be linked together in a home network. But even if consumers are ready for them, it's not clear Hollywood is.
It wasn't just computers and printers that were sharing files. There were TV sets, stereos and other entertainment-oriented gear ready to connect, and networks with enough bandwidth to handle high-definition video. And in a relatively new twist, numerous companies were showing off digital storage vaults that could gather all the pictures, music and videos scattered on a family's computers, cameras and MP3 players.
The risk for the entertainment industry is that this dream of a "connected home" doesn't work with the downloadable movies and songs being sold by the major studios and record labels. One problem is that the electronic locks they use on downloadable movies and songs won't let a working copy be stored in a digital vault. Thus, consumers will be left to fill their storage devices with pictures, songs and films that they didn't buy from online retailers. Alternatively, they'll buy devices -- like Sling Media's new SlingCatcher -- that help them play their purchased audio and video files through their home networks despite the restrictions imposed by the locks.