various braindroppings. infrequent. some incoherent. Please COMMENT, critique, complain, and send me a link to your blog or photos page. You can also click "follow" and get an email upon addl. posts. thnx!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Annual CES Summary

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was pleasant! Due to the poorest attendance in years, there was elbow room to spare on the show floor, and you could actually get around and see stuff! ‘Good for attendees, but a bad indication for the industry and the economy, I guess. But then again, what is there that isn’t an indication of a bad economy right now? So let me try to brighten your outlook with news of what’s fun & fancy in the way of e-gadgets that may be in your future!

The death of TV. Do I have your attention now? “What?” you say? The death of our most favorite consumer electronics invention of all time?? Well, not exactly the end of it, but there is clearly a shift away from TV as we have known it, including the actual death and finite ending of the way TV has been broadcast for these past 68 or so years. “The Switch” (the turning off of the analog broadcasts) is finally set for Feb 17th! But wait! … Breaking news!… They’re going to extend it AGAIN!… ‘till this summer. Because the governments’ (ill-conceived, and in my opinion, unnecessary) “DTV 2000” program for free $40 vouchers toward digital set-top tuners is stalled once again. But the death of TV is really much more about social and cultural changes, since, digital TV, which is replacing the analog, is better in every way. Including freeing up airspace to be used for more important stuff than entertainment. The big shift in TV is the growing practice of people choosing not to use antennas, cable, or satellite to view their favorite shows, but instead, channel-surf the web. So much video content, including network TV shows, is available now online, that people are eliminating their $800/yr cable or satellite bill, and watching for free! In HD! With just four, 15 second commercials per hour! !

Which reminds me of a neat product I saw at the show. More and more, people are trying hook up their computers to their big new HDTV’s to not only watch online content, but show their photos and home movies to larger groups, in a more comfortable setting. Many cables, adapters, and widgets are coming out to help you do that, but none more eloquent and ingenious than one I saw called ZV ( Basically it creates a high definition TV channel from the monitor output of your computer, and injects it into your cable TV cable that is already running around your house to all your new TV’s that are capable of receiving 1080i HD. You just tune to channel 999, (all your other channels are still there), and use the included RF remote with it’s touch pad mouse control, to see everything on you computer! You can even view it simultaneously on every TV in the house! ‘Pretty simple. ‘Pretty useful. ‘Pretty smart.

There were many demonstrations of 3D video that, I have to admit, look way better than they used to. Much cleaner and smoother, and no “eye/brain fatigue” as in the past. It will definitely be popular for video games right away, as it makes them so much more “immersive” (‘cool word, huh?). Hollywood recently announced that bringing this new technology to the cinema will keep the exhibition industry alive verses home theater. But the consumer level guys are starting to offer it for home video already! Just between you and me, there really isn’t much left for the cinema to offer us, now that BlueRay is here, except a six-week earlier release date. We can rent unlimited amounts of BlueRay discs from NetFlix for $10/month, and see a better picture, with better sound, with better popcorn, create our own intermission breaks when needed (and sometimes they’re really needed!), and not have anyone kicking the backs of our chairs! Now That’s Entertainment!

Computers. Hmm, Let’s see. Computers aren’t new. In fact, nothing’s really new with computers right now. Vista is seeing to that. Everything’s sort of at a stand-still while we suffer through these “dark years” of no-innovation due to Vista’s horrible operating system. There is some hope for the future though, as Microsoft has kind of acknowledged how bad it is, and is promising a new OS sometime maybe this year called “Windows 7”. ‘We’ll see. The only exciting innovation I noticed, was due to fact that Microsoft is allowing XP to be sold to just one specific category of machines called “netbooks”. These are wonderful, terrific, low-cost, tiny laptops, that use a terrific, low-cost, tiny processor from Intel called the “Atom”. Imagine, instead of buying a new laptop for $800, that has a very fast, 2.4Gig processor, and 4 Gigs of RAM, but has Vista, and so, it runs just so-so. ‘You know, not slow, not fast. Just half-fast. OR, you could buy, for under $400, a machine that is small, lightweight, sexy, runs for 6 hours on it’s battery, has a slower, 1.6Gig processor and just 1Gig of RAM, BUT, it uses XP, and therefore seems to run just as fast as the big one does! These netbooks are the real, productivity tools we’ve always wanted! 10” screens! 2 pounds! 6-cell batteries! Practically full-size keyboards! WiFi, 160GB hard drive,VGA out (for use with a big monitor at home) and everything else you need to do everything but maybe gaming and video editing. The only thing not built in is the CD/DVD drive, which you keep at home to allow for the wonderful portability! ‘Innovation, in spite of Microsoft! Asus seems to make the best of these at:

One other thing I noticed was that touch-screen computers are finally viable due to way better touch screens, unlike the first ones that looked dull and hazy. This technology is obviously due to the efforts of the cell phone industry, which has always worked hard to get bright, reliable touch screens to provide PDA (personal digital assistants) phones with a better user interface. Palm, Apple, and many others have now perfected the screens, but so far, people just don’t quite like typing on touch screen keyboards as much as hard button keyboards. That’s why there continues to be a bevy of new qwerty keyboard phones coming out. And that’s why, one of the biggest hits of the show was Nokia’s new flagship, N97, full feature phone that looks similar to the iPhone and all the other full-size touch screen phones out lately, however, manages to also have a full qwerty keyboard that swings out and at an angle for true, hand-held computering (SP?).

The last thing I want to tell you about was probably the most impressive use of tech that I saw,- or heard, at the show this year. Motorola has had a noise-canceling circuit on many of their phones lately called “Crystal Talk” Well, they re-invented the whole technique with multiple microphones and advanced algorithms, and they now call it “Crystal Talk Plus”. But they should’ve called it “Crystal Talk – 100 times better!” Because it is! They demoed it by letting you talk on two such equipped phones with someone who, steps into a “cone of not-silence” phone-booth-looking thing that has loud music and voices playing to represent a loud bar or restaurant. Then you switch places and keep talking, and I gotta tell ya, this thing was scary-good at canceling out almost all of the noise, not just some of it! Beware, if your spouse gets one of these phones and calls to say they‘re working late, they just might be at some bar whooping it up, and you’d never know!

If you enjoyed reading about these new tech toys (I wouldn’t admit it. It’s pretty sad that you’re a lonely nerd like me), you also may enjoy perusing sites like:


Previous year’s ces summary:

Feb 2nd, 2008

Well, I know it’s a little late, but here’s my Annual CES Summary (my 30th annual trip there!). Maybe it was just me, but this year’s CES show, seemed like it was lacking enthusiasm. It could be the impending recession, or the fact that several major manufactures didn’t show this year due to some very controversial price-gouging by the city of Las Vegas (rates for rooms during CES week have risen 365% in two years!), but you could sense a little less “energy” out there on the show floor. Maybe it’s because there was actually a little less true innovation to be seen this year. Now, I say this in comparison to the previous few years, which have seen tremendous, some say, stupendous (‘love that word) amounts of innovation. So, there was some, but not as much. Ya know, it could be that we’ve already invented everything that the human race needs, or will ever need? Maybe we just need to make-do with what we have? Could we take our computers and satellites and phones that we have now, and use them more effectively to make this planet a shining example of what humans can really do when they get all evolved and civilized and stuff? Through high-tech consumer electronics, could we communicate so well, with every single member of our big blue marble club, that we could stop quarreling, share ideas and resources, heal the sick ecosystem, and ensure the future survival of our species? Sure! I think so. I’m an optimist about this stuff, like Gene Roddenbery. He felt strongly about, and showed us an example of how, through embracing technology, instead of fearing it, we might find true peace among our various tribes. Not only on this little planet, but we could then serve as a good example, when we start to meet other folks, from other planets, blue, or any other color.

So, we trudge along, making incremental contributions to civilization, like the video-game-like program I saw where your kid can assemble a virtual train set, and run the train around on the screen. !!??!! WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING HERE? What about actually getting a real train set for our kids, ya know, one where you actually feel the tactile reality of the physics and stuff, one of the simplest toys that teaches so much about linear reality, construction, patience, personal accomplishment, etc., etc., etc.!!! Uh oh, I’m ranting again. ‘Sorry about that. Well, sure, there are certainly examples of completely stupid stuff that is high-tech – but completely stupid. But there are also totally worthwhile and useful things coming out everyday. You just have to carefully analyze whether it could actually be useful or not, for you, and your lifestyle. Some people spend thousands of dollars on video games, which I don’t get at all, but they totally enjoy them, so it’s worth it to them. Last year, I wrote about the newest PDA phones that were finally reliable and therefore useful. Unfortunately they are expensive. I later bought one last summer (the very Nokia I wrote about last year), and people thought I was crazy for spending $500 on a cell phone! Especially when they give basic ones away for free (for signing up)! Well I couldn’t imagine my life without it now. Its’ 5 megapixel camera is my main snapshot camera (and video camera), catching hundreds of great photos of things and events in my life worth remembering, that I would never have had, except that it was right there with me. And about a dozen other key app’s that I use constantly have changed my life for the better, in small, but positive ways.

But, you want to know about CES this year. O.K., let’s see, there was a winner in the 3-year-long format war on high-definition video disks. Blu-Ray! (I believe I predicted that one, last year). So now we can get down to the business of growing that product category and lowering prices so that we can all watch movies at home, that look as good as TV does already (if you have HDTV. If not, get it, it’s wonderful. (It’s stupendous!). ‘Speaking of TV, there’s a mobile TV standard being developed (3 competing systems vying for industry acceptance – we’ll know more on that in a few months). This will mean that you can watch TV in glorious digital reliability, on your phone or other handheld for “free” (regular commercials). Speaking of TV, (again?) there are some pretty spiffy new TV sets. Yes, I know, we don’t really call them “TV sets” any more. But they are. This is a bone of contention with me, because long ago, about 20 yrs or so, “better” TV’s were supposed to go “component”. That is, you’d get a monitor (only), and tuner (only) and a separate audio system, for high-performance and universal interchangeability (even that’s an official real word! Strange.). But it just never happened. And I really don’t know why. Especially now. Anyway, several of the top TV manufactures showed their “coincidentally simultaneous” dramatic breakthroughs in the development of flat screen technology. Panels that are TWICE as efficient (twice as bright, or half as much current draw, or some compromise of each), which, really is a big deal. The result is big screen LCD TV’s that are only 1.5” thick (outside dimensions!-I saw ‘em, they’re real!), at half the wattage, and half the heat! All with,- guess what, - built-in tuners and speakers, of course. Let’s stop speaking of TV now…… Uh, oh, I can’t think of anything else that was really cool to tell you about! Oh wait, here’s one other thing. The “Death of the mp3 player”. What, you say? MP3 players are bigger than ever!?? What I’m saying, is that I saw very, very few new offerings of any stand-alone MP3 players. And, there wasn’t one new phone on the show floor that didn’t have an MP3 player in it. I predict the death of the small, snapshot camera in the next year or two, as they get incorporated into the cell phone as well. Well, that’s it. See you next year!

No comments:

Post a Comment