CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW: CNET editors cover the Next Big Thing
Software? What software?
It's all about services
By Lindsey Turrentine
(December 15, 2004)
Think the Internet heyday is over? Not so fast. Sure, Internet stocks don't do the brisk business of yestercentury, but if 2004's new Net services were any indication (remember Gmail, free antivirus from AOL, and the birth of VoIP?), CES and 2005 will usher in even more online services for consumers and small businesses alike--many of them free. Is boxed software finally dead? Maybe so.
The 411 on Internet telephones
VoIP, Internet calling, Net phones--call it what you will, but it's here to stay. We saw a number of consumer VoIP products hit the market this year, but the category is still very young. Most of these Internet-based phone services can't even dial local 911 call centers yet, and the vast majority of landline users still stick with the traditional phone company.
In other words, there's plenty of room--and lots of potential--for VoIP to grow, given that Internet calling is often significantly cheaper than Ma Bell's plans. That's why we expect to see a whole new Voice over IP generation at CES 2005. The next generation of VoIP services, many displaying in CES's so-called Consumer VoIP TechZone, will likely offer more seamless setup than current packages, plus improved access to local phone services, more phone number choices, and, we hope, even better equipment and call quality.
Return of the free
Holy flashback, Batman! From the looks of the software market, you'd think we're back partying like it's 1999. Right now, we're seeing the next great wave of free software and services, and if the browsers (for example, Firefox) and the RSS readers popping up are the bellwether that we think they are, we expect to see more of the same at CES.
What, you ask, is RSS? It's the Internet's answer to newspapers--headlines and blog posts delivered to your in-box as soon as they appear online. (Read some of our recent reviews of RSS readers here.) If you don't already have a free RSS reader installed, you probably will sometime in the next year. And if some form of RSS software doesn't show up at CES, we'll be surprised.
And that's not to mention the many free--or at least low-cost--media services we expect to see at the show. iTunes may already have made its mark on the music service industry, but with electronic media on the rise and the prevalence of networked home theater and MP3 players making their debuts at the show, we expect to see a big emphasis on the services that make all this hardware worth your while. TV on your PC, anyone?
Inside the box
Still, we expect to see traditional software make an appearance at CES, if only in a few electronics-centric categories. We're certain to see more apps aimed at easing backup and burning of big digital media files, especially with the rise of dual-layer burners and the stick that Blu-ray and HD-DVD will be making at the show.
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