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CES 2008 wrap: tech's crystal ball

CES 2008 has wrapped for another year, and so CNET.com.au looks over the tech and the products we will be using in the years to come.

    by
  • CNET Australia staff

Another year, another CES has been and gone. As a barometer of things to come it is possibly the best -- other trade shows are either too specific (Macworld) or confined to a certain region (EISA, the European Imaging and Sound Association).

CES isn't the best show for specific product announcements but in attending the show we got a good idea of the tech people will be buying in the next couple of years. As with last year, it was television that generated one of the biggest buzzes.

Sharp's 108-inch LCD is the biggest yet -- and will go on sale this year in the US.

Television
Television was the dominating technology at this year's CES, with acres of show floor dedicated to new screens. Building on last year's "bigger and better" mantra, the two remaining themes were "simplicity" and "thin-ness". Every major TV vendor had a slim TV on show -- whether it was a plasma or an LCD.

However, it was two of Pioneer's concept televisions which dominated the rest of the field: one thin, and one black. Very, very black.

Thin may or may not appeal to you, but to us having a great picture is the Holy Grail we aspire to in our own homes. And the Extreme Contrast Concept blew us away. This is how a television should look. Pioneer's darkened demo room demonstrated how little light actually escapes from this TV. Black was prodigiously and gorgeously deep. It was a wonderful piece of technology, and while it won't be available this year you can bet we'll be first in line once it becomes available. Save your pennies now.

Sony also showed off its OLED television which it made available on the US's SonyStyle store at the moment the announcement was made. This TV was super-thin and mega-bright, with a good level of black. But for a 13-inch TV it wasn't cheap, with a pricetag of US$2,500.

And in the name of simplicity, Samsung showed off its Reactrix control technology. This enables you to control your TV with the most intuitive technology we know -- our hands. Reactrix uses a 3D camera to pickup your hand gestures and use them to perform different commands.

Following on from last year's 103-inch Panasonic plasma, there where a few key "big" monitors on show. As anticipated, Panasonic revealed its 150-inch television and while it was nowhere near "slim" it did highlight what could be a yet another new TV standard. The television features a 4K resolution as seen recently in the local cinema release of Blade Runner: The Final Cut.

We were a little disappointed that LG didn't release a 151-inch display as a show of one-upmanship, but at least Samsung revealed its own 108-inch this year, but this time in the form of an LCD display. The Sharp screen is expected to be available for a high-five figure in the US -- around September.

Home theatre
Home theatre gets a bum rap in comparison to its more flashy television compatriot, but there were some announcements made far away from the noisy Central Hall at Las Vegas Convention Center.

One of the most unfortunate bungles made at CES was the cancellation of the HD DVD press conference -- the night before the show started. Coming in the wake of Warner's announcement it would go Blu-ray-only, this eleventh hour decision was seen as Toshiba and its partners throwing up its hands and giving up. Even vendors with HD DVD products on display at the show looked embarrassed to be there.

Wireless was one of the biggest buzzwords, with many vendors displaying wireless HDMI and wireless USB devices. However, these have been promised since last year's show, and it was the understated outing of USB 3.0 that really caught our eye.

The Denon S-32 is a full-featured iPod system.

iPod docks were another big thing, and among the hundreds on display there were two that really stood out. The first was B&W's Zeppelin which works to pump sound around your room and enables you to wrap your hand around your iPod to enable more natural control. It will likely surface around mid-2008 in Australia.

The other dock of note was the Denon S-32, which was less of an iPod dock and more of a full-featured system.

While it was pretty superfluous, the R2D2 projector was also very cool. And if you went to the trouble of disconnecting all the cables first it also functioned as a remote control robot. Or you could just drag your DVD player around your house ...

PCs and Laptops
One of the biggest announcements from the show was that Lenovo was entering the consumer market, with a new range of laptops and desktops. While the desktops were your usual fare, the laptops featured a love it/hate it design aesthetic made of orange rubber and flashy-flashy lights. The most interesting laptop was a new ultraportable -- red in colour -- which may get a local release later in the year.

Gaming fans may also be interested to learn that HP's ultra-performance desktop, the Blackbird, will be arriving in Australia later this year. Expect to pay through the nose for one, though.

Monitors were also a big hit at the show: Dell had its Crystal monitor on display, while cooling specialist Zalman was showing off its 3D gaming display.

Unlikely to come to Australia -- but cool nonetheless -- was Alienware's rear projection gaming monitor. It featured a 2,880x900 resolution, and it filled your entire peripheral vision when perched in front of it. Expect to fork out big for a triple-SLI rig to run it sufficiently.

Though more akin to console gaming than PCs, there were plenty of Rock Band/Guitar Hero controllers present at this year's CES. The most impressive of which (and the most likely to come to our shores) was Ion Audio's prototype drumkit -- based on their own electronic performance kit.

Look and sound stylish with your Taser MP3 holster.

Car tech
For some reason this (likely highly illegal in Australia) gadget was exhibited in the Car Hall, but the Taser C2 MP3 holster was one of the weirdest gadgets at the show. Leopard print, a gigabyte of memory and the ability to shock perpetrators from up to 15 feet away -- it's what every wanna-be millionairess wants,

It wouldn't be an American trade show without ridiculously pimped vehicles, so for a look at the weird and the wonderful on display check here.

Mobile phones and cameras
While it is our biggest category at CNET.com.au, the CES 2008 announcements were very far and few between. Nokia, for example, had nothing. Bupkis.

The reason for this is fairly straightforward: phones have their own dedicated trade show in Communicasia. However, Motorola had two new phones on display, but nothing particularly ground-breaking. The ROKR E8 was kind of cool, though.

Meanwhile Sony Ericsson also released several new phones, including the W760 and the funny-looking Sony Ericsson Z555a.

Due to the PMA show in late-January, there wasn't much news, but for a look at the noteworthy camera announcements, see here.

Conclusion
CES may be over, and there may not have been any truly startling products on offer, but it did demonstrate that TV still has a way to go, and a clear path to get there.

If CES 2008 is remembered for anything else, it will probably be in 10 years in one of those "Where are they now" articles where they discuss Bill Gates' last keynote speech. He didn't have any specific product announcements to make, but from a smattering of teary coverage it was certain that the Dorkfather will be missed.

Looking for our picks of what was hot and what was not? Ella Morton goes over two standout announcements here.