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Opinion: The coolest products of CES 2012

CES is finally over. While I didn’t see any iPod-, iPhone-, or iPad-level products in terms of excitement this year, there were some interesting products that I could see spending money on. Here are some of the announcements that got my attention during the show.

Nokia Lumia 900

Nokia was once the most powerful cell phone manufacturer in the world, but that was last decade, and the company entered this decade at risk. Still, it arguably had the strongest cell phone launch at the show, showcasing the very competitive Nokia Lumia 900. With so many iPhone clones there, it was nice to see someone bring out something interesting that wasn’t. This phone had a number of folks asking whether it was better than the iPhone. I think it would be better for me than the iPhone, but I doubt an iPhone user would agree. Overall, I think it is competitive and different. Being someone who doesn’t want to live in a world where there is only one choice, “competitive and different” works for me. The fact that someone thinks it sports a more modern design than the iPhone is just gravy. Then again, by the time it makes it to stores, we’ll likely be on the next iPhone.


Dell XPS 13

The MacBook Air was the first Ultrabook product for the masses, even if was never branded as such. But it still had a lot of tradeoffs, which led Lenovo to make fun of it with this video. Apple worked with Intel to fix a number of the problems, and the Ultrabook class emerged from some of that work. Many of those products launched last year, but in my view, they (like the MacBook Air) lacked balance. While a beautiful product is nice, most of us have to work on these things. The Dell XPS 13 is attractive, robust, and it was designed to work at school or business. It has a good number of ports, and important features like a lighted keyboard and a high-nit screen (better for working close to sunlight). I’m a big believer in balance, and the Dell Ultrabook is the most balanced of the set so far.

HP Envy Spectre

Some products are a bit over the top, but they showcase things that are really cool. The other big Ultrabook announcement at CES was the HP Envy Spectre. This is desk art, and it is covered mostly in glass. This unfortunately adds a pound to a class that is measured on weight, but you do end up with something that looks like it should be in a trophy case and not on your desk. This is a pure status symbol Ultrabook, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also cool. My favorite unique feature is a proximity control for the lighted keyboard that works progressively. The keys light up in series as your hand approaches the keyboard. Of course, how could I not like a product that was named after the agency that James Bond typically fights? I imagine this is what the head of that fictional agency would likely use.

HzO WaterBlock and Liquipel

HzO was picking up steam as the show started. Basically, the product is a coating that goes inside your electronic device during manufacturing that protects it against water damage. A few years back, I bought my wife a new iPod, and shortly thereafter she was looking in our fountain and the iPod went for a death swim. At some future point, you wouldn’t need to worry about dropping your phone or other personal device in the water, it would just shrug it off. If you want something like this on an existing device, Liquipel has a $79 service that protects your beloved device from both water and scratches. What is interesting is that, for both of these technologies, all of the connections still work, but if you drop your device in the water, all you do is dry it off you don’t have a cooked device. For those of us who often drop our stuff into things like toilets (not that this has ever happened to me) this could be a boon.


SpnKiX are kind of a geeky cool; they are motorized big-wheel skates. Coming out in February, they aren’t cheap at $649, but they have an early bird special for $500 if you want to order in advance. This is a boot-strapped company, and it needs $25,000 to start production. It looks like potential customers have already pledged nearly $82K at the time of this writing, so they should have enough to start. These look like something Google employees would use to speed between the cubicles.

Parrot A.R. Drone 2.0

The first version of the Parrot A.R. Drone came out last year, and the second generation is even cooler. With a HD camera built-in support for both iPhone and Android apps, this $300 product (which is in desperate need of a mini-weapons system) is probably one of the coolest office toys ever invented. It’s really easy to fly, and it draws a crowd every year. Your own personal drone, how cool is that?

Parrot A.R. Drone 2.0

Nvidia Lamborghini Aventador

This was one hell of a car. Nvidia was showing off a number of the cars with high-definition infotainment system in them. The coolest was the Aventador. Coming in at a whopping $387,000 this would be my choice for the product that I would most want, but be the least likely to actually buy. Besides features like surround view (important when it likely costs you several thousand dollars each time you nick your rims on a curb), the advantage to the Nvidia system is the speed in which it can be updated. Often, when you buy a new car late in its three- or five-year run, you are getting an entertainment, navigation, and security system that is years out of date. Nvidia technology makes it look like this could be eliminated. The company also had two other cars in the booth: the Tesla S (which sports a 17-inch screen) and my favorite car for 2011: the Audi A7 three-door coupe.

Intel smartphones

This came in as a surprise. Intel got design wins from Lenovo and Motorola on smartphones. One of the best-looking phones in the market currently is the Droid Razr — if Motorola can do something similar with an Intel processor, that could be hot. Lenovo has been carving up the PC space, but is still only known for phones in China. Intel will still have to showcase a product we want to buy from either vendor, but most pundits thought they’d never actually get a design win. Intel was also showing an iPhone-like prototype at the show.

ARM Ultrabooks

The ARM folks weren’t standing still, as Nokia, Qualcomm, and TI all announced support for Windows 8 at CES. Some of the thinnest prototype tablets and Ultrabook-like products were secretly being shown. Now it’s a question of whether Intel will have a viable phone first, or whether the ARM vendors will have a viable notebook first.

Wrapping up

I did find a number of products at CES that I would want to buy. Unfortunately, I can’t afford the Lamborghini, and it is likely equally unfortunate that I can afford the others, because I’m likely to buy a few. Now if this show just came before Christmas when I still had money…

Guest contributor Rob Enderle is the founder and principal analyst for the Enderle Group, and one of the most frequently quoted tech pundits in the world. Opinion pieces denote the opinions of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of Digital Trends.

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