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Geeks in Sin City: This iPhoner hits the CES

Here's a preview and overview of what to expect at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

If dust could ever gather on a blog, Living with the iPhone would probably be a prime candidate. However, the good folks at CNET have made sure the dust is blown off by sending yours truly to the CES--Consumer Electronics Show--in Las Vegas. One of the directives to the cadre of bloggers fortunate enough to go was to blog excessively, but also not to go wildly afield from my blog's purpose.

So, rather than taking pictures of the iPhone next to neat gadgets (maybe I'll use the iPhone to take pictures of the gadgets I see), the better approach is to see what a discerning consumer who had the smarts/devotion/stupidity to wait in line for an iPhone would have when looking at, as my ride to the airport called it, the ultimate geek show. As we all geek out at the Las Vegas Convention Center this week, I'll keep some criteria in mind as I see the new must-have gadgets of 2008:

(1) Form Factor. The geeky way of saying, "Does it look cool?" --Nevermind the function, but what does it look like and will it be a cool addition to your house/work-bag/keychain/cube?

(2) Okay, functionality and/or ease of use. Well, this is a close second; the widget in question has actually got to do something, right?

(3) Coolness factor. How's the widget packaged? Marketed? I'm sure there will be wining and dining this week, but glamour aside, what will a real consumer get if they purchase/acquire said widget in question?

(4) Price. For you hardcore geeks, price is last on the list.

(5) The X-factor. Sure, American Idol hasn't started yet, but as Simon says, there could be the extra something that makes it cool.

Anyway, wading through the avalanche of e-mails I've gotten this week (thank you, Gmail Filters) I can discern a few trends:

(1) HD everything. Why not see fantasy and fiction as closer to reality? TVs, cameras, Wi-Fi HDTVs, and a whole host of other vendors are promising that our entertainment become ever clearer, thus further blurring the lines between reality and, well, not reality.

(2) Store everything. Mass storage devices that are solid state, flash-based, more and more compact and any other adjective (I'm sure if a mass storage company could say theirs is prettier than the next drive they would. In fact, I think Western Digital has). I can't tell you how many e-mails about this I've gotten. Do I really need to store every shred of data I've ever created on a key chain? (Well, probably, but really?)

(3) Sex it up! Last, the other trend I've seen is that if your product/preso or other thing can't sell itself and meet the five points above, then why not trot out a celebrity? Thus far, I have plans to see and hit up, a portion of Run DMC, Yoko Ono, some baseball guy from the Red Sox and, and I have no idea what I'm going to see in addition to them.

Last, thanks to a special someone, I already have one of the proclaimed "Top 10" devices featured at this year's CES. The Eye-Fi 2 GB Wi-Fi camera card reader/transmitter was this year's cool Christmas present (along with a kite, mind you). While we had thought that it could possibly work like an iPhone where the card seeks out any Wi-Fi connection and sends pictures back to your desktop (we were wrong), I have since seen the value of being able to take pictures anywhere, getting within range of the card reader (and your own Wi-Fi network) and having all those pictures transmitted to your computer without thinking about it (provided you power up your camera).

The Eye-Fi is perfect for people who don't like the clutter of cables and/or those who forget to upload their pictures. Although, in all honesty, how lazy do you have to be in order to connect a cable to your computer from your camera? Plus, there is a consideration that the camera may shut off if it has an auto power-off setting. Last, another USB port on the back of my USB-starved iMac is permanently devoted to the Eye-Fi. All that aside, it's still pretty neat, and I won't return/exchange this gift.

The Eye-Fi Wi-Fi camera card hooks right up to your computer and will beam pictures to it, provided you have a Wi-Fi network. Kevin Ho