Every year, we CNET Editors approach CES with a mixture of excitement and some underlying, stress-induced dread. The show is always a lot of work--and spending five days in the dry Vegas climate when accustomed to San Francisco's damp (cigarette smoke-free) air almost guarantees coming back with a cold--but at least we have some shiny new gadgets to look forward to seeing. And yet CES 2008 just didn't quite deliver in the MP3 and PVP category...or several others, apparently.
Don't get me wrong: Senior Editor Donald Bell and I saw plenty of cool gear. However, most of it had already been announced in one country or another sometime in 2007, so you can understand why we came away from the show a bit underwhelmed. Still, it was nice to get my hands on some devices that had heretofore been available only in Asia, such as the iRiver W7, which won Best of CES for the MP3 and PVP category. There's just something I find so appealing about being able to snap a portable media player into a car cradle and get directions. Plus, iRiver's overwhelming showing of 12 new MP3 players at CES this year restored my faith that the ReignCom subsidiary isn't disappearing anytime soon. I'm really hoping some of the players using iRiver's neat new Spinn interface make it to the States before too long.
We're also pleased to see Bluetooth technology making headway in MP3 players and headphones. In particular, it was interesting to discover that Open Interface, developer of Soundabout Lossless--an innovative technology that promises a dramatic improvement in the quality of stereo Bluetooth streaming--has been acquired by Qualcomm, a company that has the financial muscle to pimp the technology to major headphone manufacturers. (We can only hope that Qualcomm actually runs with Soundabout Lossless rather than leaving it to languish unimplemented.) Plus, we can now add another Bluetooth-capable MP3 player to the catalog: the Philips GoGear SA5200BT. Philips is also releasing another media player with Rhapsody DNA integration, which means the subscription music model is gaining more momentum.
Finally, we had the big memory jump from SanDisk. Not exactly surprising from a company that makes flash memory, but still great news and definitely a step in the right direction. The company is coming out with a Sansa View with 32GB of internal memory, with an additional microSD card slot that can accept SanDisk's new 12GB cards. That means you can have a portable media player with 44GB of flash memory--not too shabby. There's also a Sansa Clip coming soon with a 4GB capacity--for $79. Nice.