The key message from Philips' CES press conference can be summed up as this: women call the shots and style is king. With a passing mention that Blu-ray is your only option for HD, of course.

Indeed, as the company announced the new BDP7200 - a Profile 1.1 compliant Blu-ray player, ("The future for the consumer is nothing but Blu") - it suddenly struck us that nobody but Tosh ever bothers to even mention HD DVD anymore. Not even Gates proved us wrong in his keynote speech.


'Technology for technology's sake'

The opening gambit of the conference was an over-sensual film, enhancing our belief that style over substance would be the name of the day.

Newly appointed CEO of Philips' Consumer Lifestyle sector Andrea Ragnetti explained that Philips had chosen to combine its consumer electronics division with the chaps that make appliances. Fine. But then Ragnetti ventured into keynote-style state of the nation speak, saying that the industry had placed "too much focus on technology and not enough on consumer needs.

"This industry sometimes seemed more about technology for technology's sake. Consumers, we thought, had no need for new devices that had incremental advances over the old ones."

Ragnetti then launched into marketing speak. To counteract the widespread negligence of consumer need, he said, "we got deeply involved in a conversation with [consumers]...to put sense and simplicity at the heart of everything we do."

The customer now comes first, he said. (Although why we didn't before is slightly puzzling.) "Today's consumers focus less on products and much more on lifestyle experiences," continued Ragnetti, focusing on the positives, which is generally the name of the game at any press conference - even if you've got a bunch of crystal-based headphones to show.

Nevertheless, Philips' design ethos is genuinely impressive. We don't like to use the word 'sexy', but there are not a great many other adjectives we could use instead. The new Ambisound 5.1 Home Theater models (HTS6100 and HTS6515D) are every bit as nice to look at as the displays.

Ragnetti gave lengthy mention to the Dream TV series, saying they represent the "reinvention of television...like stepping through a window into a different world". Probably overdoing it, but the Italian continued, saying devices need to be a signature piece of furniture in the home. They need to be less "masculine technology box", with a "more feminine approach. Consumers have shared with us their desire for a more sophisticated design," he said.

Philips' 52-inch Ultimate Dream TV (52PFL7603D) won a CES Innovation award for its style and impressive technologies, which include hidden speakers.


Women play a "very important role"

Ragnetti also made no bones about who his company is targeting, saying that women play "a very important role" in the purchasing of consumer electronics kit.

To augment his point, he cited the example of a particular Philips shaver which needs to appeal to women as well as men since more than 50 per cent are bought by women as gifts for men. "Women call the shots," surmised Ragnetti.

This somewhat bemused most of the predominantly male journalists in the press conference, but Ragnetti continued, saying women are "more critical consumers who need to see the benefit of products". He cited recent research which found that 98 per cent of women consider style important when purchasing objects.

Despite the protests from Philips that it takes women seriously, the stage was flanked by two female models employed to prance about, wield a microphone during the Q&A session and model the Swarovski crystal headphones and USB drives we'd previously seen at IFA.

And that was it.

Well, apart from Philips announcing a partnership with Real Networks to integrate its 4.5 million song-strong Rapsody service into its audio kitm, such as the GoGear SA52 and Streamium NP1100. Although only available in the US currently, Ragnetti said other regions would follow.