Last week I attended the
2006 Consumer Electronic Show (CES), which
demise of Comdex has become the largest and most important trade show
in the nation -
not only for electronics, but for
all technology. This year's show saw
attendance, which added to the energy and
overall excitement of the event, but also jammed
hotels, city streets and aisles on the show floor.
Overall Show Theme
- Video dominated the show. Booths had entire walls
covered with plasma screens -- from 7-inch minis
to 70-inch giants. Some booths placed screens
vertically on stands, and had them playing high definition videos on a
stage, which fooled your eyes and made you think
it was a live performance. There were cars with video players built into
and some were mounted to the underside of
the hood, which would flip up and create a drive-in movie experience. There were even tiny
stick-of-gum-sized video players with screens
than your thumbnail.
To play video on all these screens you need delivery and storage
systems, of which there was plenty. There
were in-home systems, which
store video and make it accessible from every room (DigitalDeck, TeraTelly, Aeon-Digital), systems to
download content from online sources (Akimbo,
DaveTV, KiSS), and clever systems
that make your TV able to access any PC or (coming soon) phone (Slingbox).
Phone + MP3 player
- Sony-Ericsson showed their line-up of Walkman Phones.
The big drawback for phones that double as
MP3 players is that the user interface is
designed to make calls, not play music, so
it's always awkward. Sony is
addressing this by having a button that, when clicked, changes the
entire screen to operate like a portable music player. This makes it
easy to toggle between phone and music
Move over Apple, it's Linspire Mini!
The Linspire Mini was shown off
during CES at a press event for
tech reporters. At an expected price
point of $400, it's 20% cheaper than the Mac Mini and
other Mini versions running Windows XP Home. With a full office suite,
Internet browser, email, IM, video and media players, and a tiny 6.5" x
6.5" size, it's a steal. Did I mention it runs Linspire? Yeah!
device - Sony's ebook Reader. With an estimated street
price of $299-$399, this technical
marvel may be the device to kickstart the
digital book world.
It's about the size of a piece of paper
folded in half, and it's half an inch thick with a cover that opens
book. This device had stunning clarity - as good as a real piece of
paper. It uses revolutionary e-ink,
which requires no power to display.
This means the only power it uses is to refresh the page, so one charge
lasts 7,500 page turns! You connect
the ebook Reader to the PC to load
digital books; each
book is about 1MB, so it can hold
80 books with its built-in
memory. Let's hope this is
open device so people can add any digital
publications they wish onto it.
Amazingly, Sony botched the page turning buttons by putting them in the
wrong spot and making them tiny metal nubs, but hopefully they'll get
that right with when the production versions ship in Q2. They should
also ditch the built-in mono only MP3 player,
which kills the battery
and stick to making it a spectacular
digital book reader.
VOIP (Voice Over
hardware galore - Net phone calls will become
increasingly practical without a PC thanks to a large number of devices
designed to make net calls. Samsung was showing Wi-Fi and WiBro VOIP
phones. Wistron had a WiFi flip phone. AUVI Technology was showing a
snazzy WiFi speaker-phone with built-in web cam. Leadtek had a new
adapter that supports video conferences.
Linksys had a WiFi handset
called the WIP330. And Dlink demoed a small office IP-PBX phone system.
Best of all, every one of these devices
supports the open standard SIP, which
means they'll all be able to make and
receive calls with the Gizmo
WiFi MP3 Players
- I was most anticipating several WiFi-based MP3
players. Being able to load new music without a PC
(or even better,
completely automatically) seems like the next logical step in
evolution of the MP3 player. I first stopped by the MusicGremlin booth, and I was
horribly disappointed. The device itself seems solid - nice
and feature set. However, it requires you to purchase a $15 per-month
subscription system to load any music wirelessly. Even then you can't
wirelessly download free music from the web - or
even from your own personal
locker. I don't see why anyone would buy this over an iPod, since you
have to pay $200 per year just to use it.
did find a promising WiFi MP3 player from Soniqcast. This device lets you
access music wirelessly from a wide
range of sources without having to
pay $15 per month. They even make available a SDK (software development
kit) so new services can be plugged into the device. They have a unit
under the brand name Aireo that should be
in stores soon, which
New terminology at
PMP - Portable Media Player
Dect - A cordless phone protocol popular in Europe but just recently
approved for the U.S. This would compete
with 2.4- and 5.8-ghz phones
in the market.
WiBro - Wireless Broadband system being deployed in Korea. It is like
a supercharged WiFi. It has a range of 1-5 km versus the 150 feet or so
typical WiFi. Watch for similar service in the U.S. under the WiMax
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