MY CES JOURNAL
Photos powered by Olympus
FRIDAY, JANUARY 7
This morning I'd like to feature a raging debate in mobile products: convergence vs. specialization. Many power users, especially business users, value the convenience and simplicity of one device that satisfies all their basic needs for mobile computing functionality, what I call broader-featured devices.
An example is the smart phones featuring phone, PDA, wireless Internet, Bluetooth communication, MP3, and video/camera functions (such as the PalmOne Treo 650 I'm writing this on!). However, manufacturers also see that many "purists" among their customers want more specialized, "fuller featured" devices more tailored to those who see the converged features as "fluff." (Think of how many people just want a standard cell phone, but all the providers are pushing camera/video-enabled phones with games, etc., that the customer may never plan to use!)
In catering to these different tastes and needs, I believe the manufacturers that develop both profiles of devices will emerge on top. In the meantime, here's a look at some very promising technology featured here. Please excuse my bias in favor of converged devices, as I focus in my career and workshops/training on the needs of mobile power users...
Windows XP Tablet PC OS 2005
First up, Microsoft offered a great interactive kiosk on its recently upgraded Windows XP Tablet PC OS 2005. The upgrade offers a lot more user-friendly features, both for text input into all software (esecially Office, of course) as well as enhanced voice input, which is a powerful extension of the tablet PC's daily use. The kiosk allowed users to test-drive a dozen different models of tablets, both slate and convertible notebook designs, from all the major manufacturers, especially Toshiba, Averatec, Fujitsu, and Electovaya. As a tablet user myself (Toshiba's M205-S810), this was nothing new, but for all the new users I talked to, the OS was easy to use, with an average rating of 8 out of 10 for handwriting recognition.
We all know that tablet PCs have not dominated market share as it was hoped, but price point and ease of use have been major factors limiting early adoption. From the showings here (especially the new OS as well as Averatec's C3500 convertible notebooks starting at $1,299 with 60GB hard drive, Wi-Fi, and DVD/CD-RW built in), market share will increase, especially among professionals who struggle to integrate handwritten notes and computer files.
A new product anticipated for March 2005 release from Toshiba is aimed particularly at students who are looking for a full desktop replacement with handwriting recognition to organize class notes. The Satellite R15 offers better multimedia functions, including an internal DVD/CD-RW drive (still external on the M200/M205 line) and retains Toshiba's award-winning tablet screen. Prices are likely to be in the low $2,000s.
For anyone trying to dramatically reduce the size of the computer they carry and use daily, OQO's Model01 UltraPersonal Computer is a standout option (see my video interview with their rep on this site!). Perfectly balanced between PDA and notebook form factor (4.9 by 3.4 by 0.9 inches), the Model 01 offers a stylus-enabled sliding screen, full QWERTY and numeric keyboards, a fingertip mouse, and a scrollbar for control and input. Integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and an innovative port replicator docking cable make universal connections very convenient. Just 14 ounces, the Model01 runs full Windows hXP Home or Professional and offers roughly three hours of use with its removable lithium battery. Definitely deserving of a hard look from all you road warriors out there. The price tag is in the $2,000 range. One caveat: Even with stylus input, handwriting recognition would require a third-party software solution, especially for integration into standard document/file formats.
Among smart phone offerings, I was particularly impressed with a Pocket PC model currently in use in T-Mobile's network in Germany. Although U.S. release dates weren't available, the iMate Jam gives users a tiny, full-featured PDA with contact/calendar management, phone capability, MP3 playback, a built-in 1.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth connectivity, and multimedia playback. Specs were not available here, but this unit is far smaller in hand than most, if not all, smart phones with comparable features. Visit www.Microsoft.com/windowsmobile/ces/offers for details and specs (see FunWithoutWires bundle).
It's been a blast covering CES these two days, and it's time to rest these weary feet! Happy computing and all the best!
THURSDAY, JANUARY 6
After a brief meeting this morning to coordinate logistics, the CNET Backstage Crew set out to cover the CES show from end to end. This is a massive commitment that really requires more than the 48 hours we have to complete it, with an incredibly broad range of products and services on display. With roughly 150,000 people in attendance and acres of showrooms (see attached photo to see what it's like on the floor room surrounded by towers of LG plasma screens!), we had our work cut out for us.
Cellpoint's Flamingo BT headset
I started in the Innovation Plus showrooms, focused on late-breaking developments presented in interactive shows. The first product that caught my eye appealed to my Bluetooth obsession. Since switching to a BT headset (sans wires) several months ago, I've found there's no turning back! This morning I found Cellpoint's (Denmark) representative featuring an incredibly small-form-factor BT headset called the Flamingo, with a unique and surprisingly comfortable inside-the-ear fit. With intuitive controls, the Flamingo is due to hit U.S. retailers en masse in spring 2005, with an estimated price tag of $129. For more details, see www.flamingo-headset.com
DM Technology's DM-AV series
Next, I was inundated with mobile multimedia players of all shapes and sizes. A brief intro will be here, with more detail in my next post. An example, also featured in the Innovations Plus rooms, is DM Technology's (Korea) DM-AV series (picture attached) with fantastic resolution and retailing for $250 to $300, depending on onboard memory. Most impressive to my eye was the DM-AV10, showing off the industry's largest screen with the smallest profile, with up to 1GB of memory installed.
On the software side of things, Innovations Plus featured a flexible solution for backing up data for up to 20 computers, with data encrypted and stored on a private server. The product, Mirra's Personal Server, can be set to back up automatically, including workgroup files, multiple versions, photos, and multimedia, and it even provides secure Internet access to all data via remote access--a very full-featured solution that most small and medium business owners should be implementing yesterday
! (Take it from one who has lost data to a full system crash and had to start from scratch!) Visit www.mirra.com
for configurations and details.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 6
I am Ismail Abdullah, SF Bay Area native and among the 1 percent of realtors who are Certified ePROs, an elite group using technology and the Web for the gains of our clients. At CES, I'm excited to be giving you insights into new offerings in cell phones, handhelds, and software services. Since the Palm I was released, I've owned and experimented with eight PDAs, three smart phones, and countless cell phones. I'm most excited to see breaking technologies that enhance multimedia wireless communication, just as I now enjoy from my Toshiba tablet PC, PalmOne Treo 650, and Canon i80 portable printer, all with Bluetooth. I have always pushed the boundaries of what is possible with existing technology, and the synergy of tech and its uses will be a major focus of CES. Communication with our clients, friends, and families has improved with the wireless transfer of images, words, presentations, music, and more. Some examples are vacation photos shared from a PDA to a printer or a computer and client signatures written to a tablet PC's screen and e-mailed wirelessly to the relevant parties. I'll let you know how CES 2005 will push the envelope for the hardware and software that will broaden the horizons in your life!