CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW: CNET editors cover the Next Big Thing
Smarter smart phones, video,
By William O'Neal
(December 15, 2004)
Nothing says "consumer electronics" like cell phones and handhelds. And that's why we are expecting a bumper crop at CES, especially smart phones and multimedia-capable mobiles. Meanwhile, rumors of the handheld's demise have been greatly exaggerated. We think enhanced multimedia and connectivity solutions could keep the PDA alive and tapping for some time to come. Here's a more detailed rundown of what to look for at CES.
Smarter smart phones
The success of the BlackBerry and, more recently, PalmOne's Treo, has transformed the smart phone from tech curiosity to mainstream mobile. The Treo 650 just arrived but is currently available only from Sprint PCS (CDMA). By the time CES rolls around, other carriers should be selling the GSM/GPRS version of the Treo 650. Though Microsoft is a relative latecomer, its Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphones is gaining momentum, and we expect to see numerous manufacturers jumping on the smart phone bandwagon. The beauty of Smartphone 2003 is that it not only converts your cell phone into a full-fledged PDA, but thanks to Windows Media Player 10.0, it also delivers the ability to play both streaming and local audio and video content. But Microsoft is a relative latecomer to the smart phone game. Look for PalmOne's Treo 650 to garner a ton of attention. Similarly, BlackBerry won't be outdone.
Video meets the cell phone
Windows Mobile 2003-based smart phones aren't the only ones that can play video. There are already a handful of other cell phones on the market that can play steaming video. Look for video to be an increasingly big part of the cell phone scene. The U.S market may not be ready for "cell phone TV," but the fact remains that many of us are never without our mobile. With that in mind, content creators are champing at the bit, trying to figure out how to deliver compelling streaming video content on the go.
Camera phones that actually take decent pictures
Camera phones are hot items, but they make a pretty poor substitute for a digital camera. The VGA or 1-megapixel sensors in cell phones are really suitable only for snapping images for e-mail or to use as wallpaper. Consumers want images that are of higher quality and that can be printed as well. To achieve that, we'll need higher-resolution sensors, improved low-light performance, built-in flash, and other camera features. These are already available in handsets in Asia, and hopefully we'll get our first glimpses at future U.S. models at CES.
Gaming to go
Why settle for playing Splinter Cell only at home on an Xbox when you can also play it on a cell phone? We expect Microsoft to announce its next-generation Xbox, but we're also hoping to see a ton of new titles as well as technology that enables you to play multiplayer cell phone games.
Cell phones are more than just communication devices--they're rapidly becoming fashion accessories. With that in mind, look for cell phones that break design molds at this year's show. We expect to see more devices like Motorola's Razr V3 and MPx220. We may even see some wearable cell phones, smart phones, and PDAs.
Bluetooth for all
While the GSM crowd has been enjoying Bluetooth wireless for a while, those who use CDMA technology (Sprint and Verizon customers) have mostly been left out in the cold. That should soon change. At this year's show, we're expecting a bevy of Bluetooth-enabled CDMA phones.
The PDA goes multimedia
The organizer capabilities of handhelds seem to be almost afterthoughts nowadays. We're hoping for more PDAs (both Palm and Pocket PC) with additional multimedia and digital entertainment features, including the use of Windows Media Player 10.0 Mobile, gaming bundles, universal remote software, and built-in cameras, as well as the ability to view and edit pictures.
We've heard a lot of buzz about "smart" watches. But that's only one way to wear a PDA. Look for innovative ways to bring the PDA out of the breast pocket.
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