MediaFile

Maybe $400 heaters and $85,000 TVs will get consumers spending again

                                                                                          It was a confusing week to be a consumer electronics reporter. At the start, I was convinced that no one wants to spend on anything besides an iPad and by the end, I learned that there are people out there buying $85,000 TVs.

On Tuesday, Best Buy’s shares tanked on disappointing earnings. Our headline shouted “tech shoppers turn thrifty,”  and explained how nobody will buy a new flat-screen TV once they have bought their first one.

But if U.S. consumers won’t shell out for new flat screens, maybe they will buy high-end fans and heaters. That’s what James Dyson told me on Wednesday at the launch of the inventor’s latest gadget– a heater that costs $400, the Dyson Hot.

Dyson’s privately held UK-based company has 2,700 employees and saw its profit soar 26 percent this year, on the strengh of items like its cordless vacuum cleaner and swanky “air multiplier” fans that lack blades and cost much more than the competition.

Dyson told Reuters that Best Buy, his company’s largest distrubutor in the U.S., would probably rebound when spending comes back. “People will always want to buy technology,” he said.

Sony: Our tablets are coming… eventually

Sony teased out a few more details about its new Android tablets — codenamed S1 and S2 — and let reporters briefly handle prototypes.

AT&T will be the exclusive U.S. carrier for the S2, a double-screened device that bears a close resemblance to Nintendo’s DS  handheld gaming device. Sony showed off how users could turn it into a book.

Executives stressed that the tablets can connect to other Sony products, such as Blu-Ray players, TVs and PlayStation content, something Apple can’t offer. Like the Sony Ericsson Experia Play AKA, “the PlayStation phone,” the Adobe-Flash enabled tablets will come pre-loaded with the retro game“Crash Bandicoot”.

Jawbone maker branches out with Jambox speaker

JAMBOX_Black Diamond HandAliph, one of the most successful venture capital-backed consumer electronics start-ups in the U.S., has carved out a lucrative niche for itself making the high-end Jawbone mobile phone headset. But the company is launching a new product that will take it in a new direction, just in time for the holiday shopping season.

The company on Thursday unveiled the $199 Jambox, a Bluetooth wireless portable speaker which does double duty as a speaker phone. Aliph hopes it will become a must-have accessory for owners of iPhones, iPads and billions of other Bluetooth-enabled devices.

“This is the first step into a whole new world beyond headsets,” said Aliph CEO and founder Hosain Rahman.

CES: Panasonic hopes to sell 1 million 3D TVs in first year

You may only have just heard about 3D TV, but Panasonic is already expecting it to be a hit with consumers. Yoshi Yamada, CEO of Panasonic’s North America unit, told us the Japanese gadget maker hopes to sell 1 million units — or more — and they won’t even hit the stores until the spring.

It’s not clear yet how much more the 3D TVs will cost than big screen LCDs that many people just bought to replace their old tube TVs.

And we can’t resist mentioning — again — the giant 152-inch LCD TV television that Panasonic is showing off here at the Consumer Electronics Show. Big is back, in emphatic fashion.

Best Buy CEO: Don’t forget the gift card

Hey Brian Dunn, CEO of gadget lover’s cathedral top electronics retailer Best Buy, what’s on your short list of five great bang-for-your-buck devices for this holiday season?
(Thanks to the CNN Money reporter for asking this question at a press conference today)

DUNN: My short list?

* (First), on my personal short list — a netbook is definitely on my short list – and by the way it’s a companion device. It’s lightweight, it’s small, it’s great to take on a quick trip.
* (Second) I think the HD Instinct is a very interesting smartphone. [Mediafile: That's Samsung's Instinct HD]
* (Third) I love my Flip HD camcorder. That’s a great piece.
* Four, I really love the Ultra Thin OLED TVs are cool. [Mediafile: Um, cool yes. Bang for Buck? At about $2,000 for an 11-inch screen, let's just leave it at cool and move on. mkay?]
* The fifth one, of course, is a gift card , that I can give to the people I love, so they can get whatever it is they want.

Well played, Brian. Well Played.

Cisco flipped for Pure Digital, but did VCs flip out?

Cisco’s $590 million all-stock purchase of Flip video camera maker Pure Digital last week may sound like a nice price for the venture capital-backed company, especially given the non-existent exit market right now.

But Venture Capital Journal editor Larry Aragon writes in a PEHub blog post that the $590 million number doesn’t sound that meaty when you calculate the return on investment for Pure Digital’s venture capital backers. And that’s especially true because some top-notch VC firms like Benchmark Capital and Sequoia Capital have invested in Pure Digital. (Venture Capital Journal and PEHub are part of Thomson Reuters.)

Aragon calculates that if Pure Digital’s VC investors put in about $95 million, and assuming that they own about half the company (since it’s a stock deal), “that’s a return of just over 3x their money.”

Obama greenlights analog TV for another season

After all the excitement, endless public service announcement ads and electronics retailers salivating over anticipated high-definition TV sales, it turns out that the United States might not be switching to digital television just yet.

President-elect Barack Obama is backing a move to delay a mandatory switch to digital TV signals on Feb. 17 because viewers might not be prepared. Also, the government has run out of $40 coupons to help pay for converter boxes.

The idea that as many as 8 million homes (according to Nielsen data) might lose TV reception in a few weeks is not the kind of headache a new White House administration wants to deal with so it’s perhaps not surprising talk of a delay, possibly up to four months, is gathering support.