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Originally published Monday, December 31, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Big-league pitching from CES exhibitors

With less than a week to go before the Consumer Electronics Show throws open its doors to the tech world, the PR pitches have passed their...

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With less than a week to go before the Consumer Electronics Show throws open its doors to the tech world, the PR pitches have passed their peak. They came like a deluge earlier this month.

Companies exhibiting at CES struggle to gain some attention amid the din created by their partners and adversaries in several industries. Not to mention the manufactured distraction of the show's setting: Las Vegas.

News releases fall like confetti on a parade.

Journalists, analysts and buyers are plied with offers of food, drink, a comfortable place to sit down, a ride from the airport, scantily clad women posing next to gigantic speakers or a chance to rub elbows with celebrities — anything to draw their attention to the technology itself.

Among the big names expected at the show next week: Yoko Ono, IndyCar driver Danica Patrick, Kevin Costner and his band (what band?), Michael Douglas, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz and Mary J. Blige.

One of the most extravagant pitches we received came from Goldmund Media Room, a high-end Swiss home-theater company that took a different course to separating its products from the crowd: It offered to fly reporters on a private jet from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, where they would get a look at a $300,000 home-theater setup.

An enticing pitch, but here was a case where the company probably could have let its products sell themselves. This is how the Media Room was described:

"With speakers that tower over the tallest person at CES, dozens of subwoofers concealed behind interior walls and up to 128 channels of ultra surround-sound, the Goldmund Media Room is the kind of home-theater system that requires the blueprint to your house, not just a Phillips screwdriver to install."

Then again, that sounds like the kind of setup you just can't duplicate in a CES booth.

Digital TV

One topic that's sure to get a lot of attention at CES is the coming transition to digital television.

On Feb. 17, 2009, analog broadcast signals will come to an end and televisions will switch over to digital.

To watch the broadcasts, you'll need a new digital TV. But it turns out that's what lots of people have already.

The Consumer Electronics Association released new research last week suggesting that more than half of U.S. households have a digital TV.

The transition to digital is being driven as much by the 2009 switchover as consumer desire for high-definition viewing. According to the association's forecast, nearly four out of five digital TVs sold in 2008 will be high-definition.

For those who don't want to buy a new TV, many manufacturers are making digital converter boxes. The government will distribute $40 discount vouchers to defray costs.

Just about everything you'd want to know about the transition can be found at www.dtv.gov.

Baidu service

Scratch out another excuse for pirating intellectual property in China.

Baidu, the dominant Chinese search engine, launched a test version of a new patent search service last week, a year after U.S.-based Internet giant Google did so.

Reports say it was done in partnership with the State Intellectual Property Office and contains information on 2.7 million patents.

Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff. We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or biztech@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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