CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW: CNET editors cover the Next Big Thing
Molly Wood, senior editor
Our inveterate Buzz-er Molly Wood has been unleashed on the CES show floor to dig up the stories and the hottest buzz.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 8, 2005
A staple of any good trade show is a phalanx of attractive, invariably blank-faced women delivering the dazzling technical specs of products they've never seen and couldn't identify in a police lineup. The LG booth (Central hall, booth number 8214) is an excellent, if slightly disturbing, example. There, women recite perfectly memorized speeches as though reading an invisible teleprompter, with a truly astonishing lack of affect. It is, in fact, robotic. Really, you simply have to watch the blonde lady, if only for the part where she pauses, cocks her perfectly coiffed head, then says, "Wow. That sounds awesome." I can't do it justice. I really think she is a robot.
The next-generation booth babe
FRIDAY, JANUARY 7, 2005
Roll me over
This year's CES is officially the year of the rolly bag. And oh, how we wish it weren't. Our gracious host, CEA, is partly to blame, after giving out and selling thousands of lime-green Toshiba rolly bags last year, many of which are in attendance this year. Apparently, that kicked off a trend (and I admit, at the time I thought they were a good idea, and one that seriously saved on the normal trade-show shoulder agony). This year, nearly everyone is toting a rolly bag, and though shoulders are saved, toes are suffering.
Defenseless tootsies have been cruelly run over, and tripping is epidemic. Unfortunately, most of the rolly-bag rollers are lugging their bags around like forgotten tails--they drag a full arm's length behind their owners, who thump them along the floor with zero regard for the toes, feet, and ankles of the glazed-eye zombies staring in thrall at the bright lights and big gadgets all over the floor. (Actually, it's sort of like the way people who walk while talking on cell phones tend to stumble around, as though when their ears are in use, their eyes don't work either.) So, for the sake of my toes, delicately encased in feminine and fragile boots, I'm begging you. Roll with care.
Motomountain, here I come.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 6, 2005
The big Bill bore
Thank goodness Engadget had the patience to recap the entire Bill Gates keynote last night, because that thing was, to say the least, really shockingly boring. Even the formidably funny presence of Conan O'Brien couldn't save the show, although he gave a valiant effort (quick question: his being there was sort of, uh, weird, and do y'all think there's any chance it means Microsoft is going to, like, buy NBC? Or is it just a big, weird, sad sort of sellout thing?). The biggest problem, really, was that poor Bill just doesn't have a compelling story to tell. Well, actually, the biggest problem was the hilariously bad technical glitches. They couldn't keep a video on the big screen for more than a few seconds--especially annoying for me, sitting way in the back, with my view of Bill 100 percent blocked by a big video camera (I could see Conan, though, so that worked out fine). A planned slide show of wacky Photoshop adventures with Conan and Bill failed not once, but twice, but was luckily funny enough to recover nicely.
But technology glitches shouldn't be the most memorable part of a technology trade show keynote, and Bill just didn't bring it last night. Maybe it's a testament to the pervasiveness of the technology Gates has been espousing for all these years, but I kept thinking, "My TiVo does that. My TiVo does that if you hack it. My Harmony remote does that. Shouldn't he be talking about Xbox 2 now?" The IPTV demo was the most compelling--and snarky, too, with the SBC exec commenting that all of her demonstrations worked. She is, no doubt, MIA today.
Not much to say, and no way to read it.
Ice, ice baby
Is the tech bubble slowly reinflating? I've seen not one, but two ice bars at two separate parties--and one contained suspended frozen cell phones. If that isn't a sign of prosperity, avarice, and hedonistic spending, I don't know what is. Next year: the return of the tchotchkes!
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 5, 2005
Simply put, cool cameras
Today, while performing camera tricks for roughly three hours, I happened to run across two products I think it's only fair to refer to, Paris Hilton-style, as "hot."
The first and, I daresay, coolest, is Kodak's EasyShare One, a new 4-megapixel camera that features a huge 3-inch LCD that's also a touch screen, à la Palm or Pocket PC. It comes with a stylus, or you can use finger power to navigate through albums and individual photos. The EasyShare One has 256MB of onboard memory, so you can store up to 1,500 photos, which you can also organize into albums--say, by date, even. The big 3-inch screen looks supersharp, too, so the camera makes a more-than-adequate image viewer.
But that's not all.
Swim 'n' snap
Next up (can you tell I've been doing video?), the Pentax OptioWP, a trim little 5-megapixel camera with a built-in 3X optical, internal zoom. Yeah, yeah, cute camera, pocket size. Underwater. Now, I have a Konica Minolta Dimage, and I also have a plastic housing for it that lets me take it underwater, which was awesome when I was swimming with the dolphins on my honeymoon last summer. But the thing is, I'm always totally paranoid that the little rubber seals will give way and water will leak in. Plus, it gets all smudged with sunscreen, and it's really hard to clean.
The OptioWP, on the other hand, takes a little dip underwater all by itself--no casing required. It can take photos for up to 30 minutes in up to 5 feet of water. Basically, it's for snorkeling and swimming pools. Plus, when you inevitably drop it in the mud or cover it in sand, you can rinse it off without fear. Slick. (April 2005, less than $400.)
Laugh if you want, but this is the biggest news coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show on this fine Las Vegas morning: the Starbucks stand in the Las Vegas Convention Center is offering a new lid, and it's got a slider that opens and closes the drink hole.
Innovations like these are the reason I come to CES.
You know we're all about auto tech and this takes the cake so far. At the official CES press event last night, I saw the second-biggest news of the week, and the product everyone's talking about: Ride Tones. It's like ring tones...for your car. If you've got a relatively new vehicle that comes equipped with keyless entry, the boys at Ride Tones will install this little removable box under your dashboard, and when you approach your car and, say, unlock it or pop the trunk, it'll play back a sound you've chosen or recorded.
Here's how it works: you take out the unit, connect it to your computer via USB, and use the included software to record sounds, download sounds from the Ride Tones library, and--this is the coolest part--schedule sounds to play at certain times or on certain days. Once you put it back, your key fob does the rest. (Plus, don't you love the word fob?)
A few examples, lovingly borrowed from the press kit: "You pop your trunk and hear, 'Let me out of here.'" "When you start your car on your birthday, you hear, 'Happy Birthday, handsome.'" And the cutest possibility: "Your girlfriend unlocks her car and hears, 'Sarah, will you marry me?'" Aww. That alone is worth the price of admission, which will be less than $150, on sale in March 2005.
"I see miles of walking and thousands of booth babes in your future."
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2004
I watch a lot of TV. I'm not ashamed to admit it. OK, I'm a little ashamed--primarily because most of it is stupid TV (not Desperate Housewives stupid, but Lost and Survivor stupid). Nevertheless, I'm not alone, and TV is arguably the cornerstone of American society. That importance is on display (get it? display? har har) in just about every press release I've gotten in advance of this year's Consumer Electronics Show. I've received pitches for TV-equipped computers; video-equipped cell phones; home entertainment systems, networking, and setup; TV recording, on-demand TV, and even the occasional, actual, television set. So, it may be risky to make predictions, but here I go: this year's CES is all about the boob tube. Witness the evidence.
TV to go
TV to go, but it's so tiny!
When is a computer still indispensable to people who are getting tired of computers? When it's a TV, of course. Consider the Toshiba Qosmio. It looks like a simple little notebook, doesn't it? But it's basically a PVR, a DVD player (and recorder), a home stereo, a computer, and--you guessed it--a TV. Are you sensing a theme here? Look for a lot of announcements in the multimedia computing department, not the least of which will be the rise of the Media Center. Granted, some of the current contenders aren't ready for (if you'll forgive yet another pun) prime time. In other actual hardware developments, we'll be watching for digital media servers and networked A/V receivers, because what good is entertainment if you can't stream it, get it on demand, or schedule it remotely?
On that note, let's have a little chat about TiVo, shall we? The highest-end DVRs can record high-definition programming--but they'll cost you. A lot. The next-best DVRs can record DVDs, meaning you can take those saved shows and archive them to your heart's content. We're expecting more of both this year, and our home entertainment editors suspect TiVo could keep its waning light aflame with a digital-cable-ready DVR that can record in high-def without the cable box.
TV on DVD (and on the network)
Look for Blu-ray and HD-DVD, the two pending formats for megastorage, to be duking it out on the show floor. Blue laser technology promises to deliver, among other things, DVDs that can potentially store up to 50GB. If you're thinking "record in high-def," you're starting to catch on. Like HD programming itself, though, we expect actual product to be scarce. Why do you care about something you can't have? We don't know, but you do. Come on, you do. Not everyone who reads about the iPod can afford to buy one, after all.
Networking is in the game, too. Look for Media Center Extenders that, uh, extend your wireless network from your Media Center PC to your TV, stereo, game consoles, and so on. Then just download some video and "extend" it onto your television screen. See how that goes?
Oh, right--the TVs
Say it with me, now: It's all about the TV.
Kooky Vegas watch
Need more proof that TVs are the reigning theme of this year's CES? Here's the best press release we've gotten yet. It's for Furniture in Motion, which is basically a big home entertainment center custom designed for plasma TVs. The TV sticks to a panel in the front, and you use a remote control to slide it up and down. The best part is the Web site, actually, where you can slide the plasma up to, mercifully, hide the freaky brass statues of deer. See, now that's handy.
CES BUZZ BLOG
Our inveterate Buzz-er Molly Wood is on the CES show floor, digging up the stories and the hottest buzz. What's the latest? Take a look at Molly's buzz blog and find out.
NEXT BIG THING AWARD
CES is full of cool gadgets, but which ones will you be lining up to buy? Our editors cut through the hype and tell you what products will be the Next Big Thing.
CNET'S CES BACKSTAGE CREW
We gave six regular, everyday CNET users backstage passes to CES 2005. You'll never guess what they discover in their travels through the wonderland of gear and gadgets.
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