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.
This is a display technology that could change the mobile world as we know it. Right now there are two big problems with products like iPhones, smart tablets, smartbooks, netbooks, and eBooks. If the display is ePaper (eBooks) it can’t do color or multimedia, if it is LCD (most everything else), it uses way too much power and sucks for reading. The Mirasol from Qualcomm, currently in production and rumored to be in the next Kindle, uses micro-mirrors and uses the low power of ePaper while having the multimedia capability of LCD. It is also very readable since it is transflective (uses external light). This display, if it can scale up, could transform displays on most mobile devices, not to mention displays in other industries. Currently it is only in a 5” form factor, but if they can scale it up, this thing could do amazing things the least of which is to cause eBooks and tablets to merge into a single device. An iPhone-like device with this technology could be wonderful.
MSI has been doing some wonderful work of late, but arguably the best looking all-in-one computer at the show was the MSI Jellow. Not only is it stunning, but the mouse can also be used as a VOIP phone handset and the keyboard nests in a pocket that results when you slide the screen up and open a hidden compartment. The picture really doesn’t do the device justice, as it truly is stunning. MSI is increasingly surprising me with aggressive designs and interesting products.
3D was all over CES 2010, but I’m still having trouble getting around the concept of the glasses for movies and TV shows. I went back and looked at the ramp for color TVs and found out it took 16 years to get started and required Disney to launch Disney’s Wonderful World of Color before folks actually bought the sets. You didn’t need expensive glasses to see color. But for gaming, 3D is marvelous and if you already have 3D for gaming, reusing the glasses for movies and TV isn’t a problem NVIDIA, who showcased the strongest 3D demonstration encompassing both media and gaming, may be the key to the success of this effort.
This was just off the wall geeky and cool. Have you ever watched the military drones they use in places like Iraq and wanted your own? Well the AR.Drone is your own personal drone and, like a real drone, it is relatively intelligent, allowing it to hover in place and follow things without someone actually having to fly it. It can be controlled with an iPhone, and will send the video from one of the two drone cameras to the iPhone screen, and with two of them you could have a ball with chasing and battle games in real space, whil with the other one you could spy on your pets or annoy your spouse. This thing was just incredibly fun to watch. Want to check out what is making all that noise in your neighbor’s yard? Check this out.
CES 2010 was absoluely great, and I had a ball. There were cool toys from a number of vendors that I wanted, in some cases really badly, and they even had a flying robot (the AR.Drone) that would likely land me in a lot of trouble (safety is overrated). Long story short: CES is back, my friends, and it is back with a vengeance. I can hardly wait until next year’s show!