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The 2011 International CES

Last update: 1/19/11  .....

The 2011 CES (formerly the Consumer Electronics Show) ran January 6th to 9th this year. I'll try to share some of the goodies I saw on the floor and perhaps give you some ideas on tech to watch this year. As with NAB, a lot of prototypes and non-functioning gear gets to the CES floor. But some of the ideas are stunning.

I dove right in on Wednesday evening, before the show even officially opened. The event was called "The Digital Experience" ... held at Caesar's Palace ... and it was just that. With well over 150 exhibitors, it is a nice place to get a first look at many of the products that would headline the show - and with 2700 booths and 140,000 attendees crammed into the Las Vegas Convention Center, there was a lot more to see.

My impressions from The Digital Experience mirrored the entire CES experience:

iPhone, iPod, and iPad accessories! (no, you'd never guess) Only everywhere you looked: covers, holders, stands, keyboards, and all sorts of various doo-dads. It is an entire industry on its own! At the Show itself, a large part of the North Hall was "iLand," where Windows was not spoken. Yet, it was odd. Apple does not do CES. It was sort of like an NAB where Nautel and Harris did show. (Apple does have its own event, coming shortly.)

TABLETS

Probably the biggest anticipation was held for the tablets. Going in, I especially planned to see as many of the tablets as possible, to see what the range will be, and what can be expected. (eReaders and netbooks are still sort of out there, but clearly, the interest level was on the more complete (and color screened) tablets.)

Whether any one or two will become iPad killers is yet to be determined. However, there are some strong contenders, from Samsung (Galaxy Tab) and Motorola (the Xoom) to Dell (Streak). Most seem to be running a flavor of Android (the Xoom featuring Android 3.0 Homeycomb), although a few were Windows 7CE or WebOS, and one was a dual boot unit.
 

It took a while, but after hunting down the various tablets, I can tell you that when the computer industry press reported 80 manufacturers where showing tablets (and 20 more "almost ready!") they were not kidding. And that does not include the displays from OEMs all over the Far East, who are turning out the hardware by the shipload.

The range is indeed wider than mentioned yesterday. For example, the Dell 5-inch Streak seems barely larger than some cell phones, but is a respectable PDA to handle a lot of chores - easy to put into your pocket and run. Dell also was at the other extreme, with a new Inspirion Duo that combines the netbook and tablet, with a rotating screen, that can be folded around as desired to expose the screen only, screen and keyboard, or closed up entirely.


Dell Inspirion Duo

Retail prices mentioned ran from $200 to around $549 (a few even pushed $1k). More than a few had two prices, depending upon that common "two-year contract" for phone or data service. Features ran the gamut as well. The Motorola Xoom is stunning - it has the highest version of Android (3.0, known as Honeycomb), free upgrade promised to G4 for early adopters, dual core 1 GHz processors said to be capable of multitasking ... but no phone! - and will only be sold through Verizon at first (price not yet available).

I was also quite impressed with the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the zoom levels were very good. The Toshiba was not operating, but rotating in a display box. The Intel booth showed several more that were still in prototype-land. Some of the companies have simply said "it's coming."

In the middle (cost and features) were entries the ZiiO from Creative (the Sound Blaster people) and the Kiros from Coby (a value-oriented company). Ranging in price and on-board memory, the Creative claims to have given special attention to the audio output, the Coby to making an easy to use product hugging the $200 price point.

CRITERIA FOR CHOOSING

If you are looking to get a tablet in the near future, consider what your requirements will be. Here are some of the pointers I've assembled:
        1. Memory is not a huge issue. Most all feature more than the base iPad, some as high as 32 GB.
        2. Inputs: some are mini or micro USB, some will take a flash drive directly.
        3. Outputs: some have HDMI output ... to drive an HD TV
        4. Power: not "nebulus," but one can suppose the more you do, the shorter the battery life.
        5. OS:  It seems that with less robust processors usually Android 2.1 or 2.2 are mentioned,
                with the more robust, Android 2.3 and 3.0 are used.
        6. Cameras.  Some have two. The question is whether video conferencing is desired and
                whether or not the user wants/needs WiFi and/or cell data plans. (If you can live with WiFi
                or cable only, why pay more for the cell capability?)
        7. Screens. there are two major styles: resistive and capacitive screens. In general,
                resistive screens use softkeys to do things like zooming, the capacitive screens
                allow the two finger zoom and such - much better, but more costly.
        8. Keyboard. Do you want to use the touch screen or need an external keyboard?
        9. Cost... the Dells's, Samsung and Motorola, for example, are going to be sold by the cell
                companies, with the price modified by the typical two-year commitment.

I expect to take a look at several of these as they become available, with a specific view as to their value to broadcasters.

One crossover with some of these camera-enabled tablets was the ability to record video ... with small HD camcorders (around $100) and one company selling a forehead mounted camera (although designed for extreme sports).

AUDIO HIGH END

OK OK ... there was a lot of high end audio stuff.  Speakers, turntables, headphones, tube audio amps, etc. Many well north of $10k, some with oxygen-free cables. But you have to admit, those amps with 833's sure look neat. And the speakers do sound sweet. But you can keep those funny cables.


Audio Power Labs 833TNT.
Just $100,000 for stereo - but you get liquid cooling!

On the other hand CCrane was there, displaying their recently released CCRadio-EP, among other products. (We already have a CCRadio-EP in hand ... a review is coming).

Toyota announced support for HD radios. There were a number of actual vehicles being shown from different makers, but there was as much display of USB inputs and alternative (streaming) sources. A series of companies were showing hardware/software combinations to make an audio and visual library available for access anywhere, via subscriptions and using the "cloud" - effectively allowing a user to being their own streamer.

Many broadcasters also are trying to enhance their "streaming" apps, Clear Channel was there with their iHeart applications. However, there was no special announcement about the content itself. Maybe the definition of "high end" needs attention.

TV LAND AND VIDEO

There was no fight for the largest display. 60 and 75 inch displays were common ... and they all looked better than good. The general consensus is that the manufacturers - who suddenly have full browser-capable flat TVs (most TVs up to now have been crippled, and mostly only able to access pay sites) - are trying to overcome stalled sales for HDTV and 3D ... although more than a few were showing 3D without the need for glasses.  Perhaps the lack of standards is the problem there.

Depending upon your access speed, some of the new TVs can stream all sorts of things from the web. And Netflix is negotiating with some makers to put a "Netflix" button right on your remote control - for that ultimate impulse buy.

Skype showed an upgrade, released this week. The interface was tweaked, but the "big" deal was multiple video conferencing. Also, Skype, magic jack (with a new "free user to user" option), and Ooma (with some new hardware) all were pushing the wider audio bandwidth they were sending, up to 8 kHz or so.

THE CONNECTED HOME/OFFICE

Using the iPhone and tablets as a base, more and more remote control apps for home and office were on display. Forget your key? Send a command, and the front door will open. Need to start the coffee pot? Just punch it up. Many companies are selling under the "Zig-Bee Alliance" standards.

And then it gets, perhaps, a bit silly ... are you really ready to use - and pay for - kitchen appliances and washing machines that browse the Internet and send email? How about a refrigerator that costs an extra two hundred bucks but will tell you when the milk is low. Knowing when your clothes are dry might make the laundromat more interesting, but I'm not sure I need to know you needed more soap because things were extra dirty.....

GREEN GREEN

A whole section of the floor displayed "green" products, from eco-friendly batteries to battery-powered cars. Solar chargers and systems to go "off the grid" were on display, although still pricey. And quite a  medical "apps" were in evidence, permitting people to monitor their heart, blood pressure, and more from their smart phones (or computer, in some cases).

Perhaps one of the best ideas I saw in this area was the "smart power strip."  When the key unit is turned off, it kills the power to the peripherals. Automatically.  Saves all that Vampire power until you turn on the main unit again.  Of course, if you never turn off your computer, that is another matter!

YES, SOFTWARE, TOO

On the utility front, some good "tune up" software from Iolo, and a very modestly priced audio recorder/editor/normalizer, complete with an interface box from Honestech. One model even has a small cassette player for conversion.  (Another does video tapes or camcorder video, edit, and DVD burn ... still another will allow the copying of slides (remember those?) or film  ... something a lot of us have sitting around, begging to be archived.)

Worried about the proliferation of portable devices in the company? Absolute software has enterprise solutions to track and, if necessary, turn off or erase most all mobile devices.

A GOOD ONE, RIGHT AT THE END

For some reason, the very last booth I visited was from ARIN, the folks in charge of the move to IP V6 IP address numbers. The current IP address system, Version 4, will run out of numbers in a few months. IP V6 is already in operation, and as others start to migrate, I hope to have some explanatory material to help folks figure out the new IP addresses.

Check Back, please ... This section is still being augmented.

 


The 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES)

1/24/10

The 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas (January 7 - 10) should be a source of a more than a few products and software of value to broadcasters.

As the week progresses, some notes will be posted here, about the "finds" ...  

  • CES attracted between 110-115,000 attendees during its four-day run, equally in the 2009 figures. 
        
  • An interesting find is the "eReader explosion." In addition to the Kindle and other proprietary readers, there is quite a selection of new readers that you can load with your own documents.  The first thing that comes to mind is loading manuals and schematics to take along to transmitter sites. Oh! Did I mention they are like 7 ounces with six inch screens?  (Some do a dual screen ... more info later!) You will see a lot of "slate" and "slender" terms in the coming months.  Prices are already competitive with Kindle and dropping - under $250 for many of them.
  • In the North Hall, you might be forgiven if you began to think the iPhone was the only product cell users were buying. That and "green" products seemed to be in a race with automotive to see who had the upper hand in the North Hall. In fact, it was much "quieter" than normal in the Hall. New Ni Mh batteries were shown with a 1.6V charge point, and other rechargeables with a totally biodegrable composition.
  • Another trend in evidence is the move to put finger "swipe" control onto a lot of products, from more and more cell phones to televisions, video frames, etc.
  • I am pleased to report I actually met someone at the HD booth at one of the "events" last night - someone who actually sees the reason there is such divisiveness in the industry about the implementation of digital transmissions. There were several new vehicles shown, including Ford products, that had some interesting displays of radio front ends, screens, etc.
     
  • There is a dramatic increase - and lowered costs - of "green" products to power and/or recharge small equipment. Ever wish you could get rid of all those wall warts? Stay tuned, some suggestions will appear here later in the week.
  • Google displayed their new smart phone, the Nexus One. Planning to sell it online, to reduce the control from the cell phone companies, the HTC-built phone will retail for $529 at first, although a deal with T-Mobile brings it down to $179 with the familiar two-year commitment (to an $80 a month package including unlimited data and text). Google's plan is to get other cell phone companies to take the phone on board.
  • Remember the "all-in-one" printers/scanners/fax/copies? It seems that "all-in-one" TVs are coming. Not only will you watch the TV, but browse the Internet, use Media Center products to play videos, take phone calls (even video conferences), control your security system, read email, and probably tell the coffee pot to start! 



 

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