The last couple installments of gadget and technology expo the Consumer Elecronics Show (CES) were hardly worth the trip. Two years ago, the iPhone launch eclipsed the event and made many of us wonder if Apple was becoming THE consumer electronics market. Last year, it was the Palm Pre which was the belle of theball, though the device kind of flamed out by the end of December, and Las Vegas is too far out of the way to go to see one product anyhow. In2009, the mood further recalled Comdex, an earlier big failed show, and many of us suspected that CES would soon be history. But here’s the good news: This year CES came back with a vengeance, and while the shadow of the coming Apple tablet, rumored to be called the iSlate, did create a little cloud over the show, it was a very little cloud indeed.
A number of products stand out in my mind as potential game changers at the show this year, and following, we’ll take each in turn.
Lenovo made a number of interesting moves including making a major commitment to AMD in its new products, but perhaps the most interesting moves it made took the form of two disinct offerings: The Skylight and the U1. The Skylight was a paper-thin, ARM-based smartbook that appeared to be both unique and potentially very useful as the market moves away from the existing PC model and to the Web for applications and services. But even more amazing was the U1, a laptop PC which shifted form from a small netbook to an ARM-based smart tablet when you removed what appeared to be the typical integrated netbook screen. This was just incredibly cool to watch and since both devices could arguably use the same WAN connection, it would make them vastly cheaper to keep connected than having both a WAN (cellular) connected notebook and tablet. Lenovo was doing a little butt-kicking.
Dell snuck out a 5” tablet and started showing off its new cell phones, wih both based on the Android platform. Both are very attractive devices and bring into question (since you can put a 5” tablet in a jacket pocket) why you need the 10” tablet Apple is rumored to be bringing out. But my favorite notebook as the show was Dell’s M11X. Using a similar ID to their massive gaming notebook lines, the M11X was an ultra-portable gaming machine. At 4lbs, I would actually carry this thing and it has hybrid graphics giving it an estimated 6 hours of battery life when not in gaming mode (more like 2 hours if in gaming mode), but that’s the cost of performance. I wanted one badly.