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CES 2009: FINAL REPORT OF WHAT I SAW
Review by Daniel P. Dern
CEA Event  ISBN/ITEM#: CES2009WRPDD
Date: 19 January 2009

Links: CES Home Page /

According to CEA, the company that puts on the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas each January, this year's show had over 20,000 new products from the 2,700-ish exhibitors, and attendance of over 110,000 (the final, verified numbers won't be out for another three months) -- down from last year's 140,000+, but still not a shabby number, particularly given the state of things.

In two days' of walking the show floors at the Las Vegas Convention Center and Sands Expo and Convention I didn't see everything, of course... but I did (as my feet can attest) manage to walk most of the exhibit areas in both locations, other than the international zones and whatever was in the Las Vegas Hilton and the Venetian Hotel. I even managed to walk through the automotive-mostly hall -- and I'm glad I did, as there were some exhibitors there of interest.

Plus I walked by as many of the exhibitor tables as possible at the CES Unveiled, Pepcom, ShowStoppers, and Lunch@Piero's multi-vendor press events, and had good schmooze at the Storage Visions track over at the Flamingo Hotel.

All in all, I probably chatted with, or took quick looks with, several hundred vendors, including mobile and desktop storage, netbooks and notebooks, power (batteries, fuel cells, solar, wind, etc.), wireless, and whatnot. Sadly, I did not manage to see the LG Watch phone, the new Palm Pre phone, or get a good look at the Organic LEDs (I saw them briefly -- impressive!). Nor did I get a chance to browse the digital cameras, sigh.

Here's a bullet-ridden-summary of what I did see (including some things I mentioned in my previous TechRevu reports) that struck me as interesting (including "I'd love to try/own that" and/or "I'd love to write more about that"), sorted by

  • Notebooks'n'netbooks
  • Storage and Backup
  • Software and Web Apps
  • Networking, Connectivity, Wireless (Wifi, 3G), Peripherals and Accessories
  • Power
  • Mobile, Music and Media Miscellany
  • Automotive, Home and Sundries.
(I'll follow this with a short "Dern's Picks For CES 2009" mini-report.)

NOTEBOOKS'N'NETBOOKS:

  • Netbooks: HP has new/refreshes for the 2133 Mini-Note, including the 2140. MSI's Windbooks look mighty nice. I believe Asus announced some new models, but I didn't get a chance to see them. Lenovo's new model of its IdeaPad S10 includes the Linuxish-based near-instant start-up, along with Windows.

  • For notebook and netbook users, Ergotron's $99 Neo-Flex Notebook Workbase not only offers a good stand to prop the notebook display up to a better viewing position, but also bundles in a wireless keyboard and mouse.

STORAGE AND BACKUP (Desktop and Mobile):

  • Backup/Restore: ClickFree, CMS and ReBIT were showing their mobile/desktop backup/restore (for files and/or whole-system) solutions; each offers a different mix of what gets backed up, how often, how many systems one device can support, and whether the device can do a system restore -- or be a bootable device, e.g., CMS's Ultimate Backup lets you boot from their system, or swap the drive into your notebook.

  • Fujitsu now offers encrypted drives, using the newish Opal standard.

  • Solid State Drives: Sandisk announced their new 3G family of third-generation 43mm MLC (Multi-Level Cell) solid-state drives (SSDs), at affordable-enough prices for notebook users: 60GB for $149, 120GB for $249, 240GB for $499 -- a 4x price drop from a year ago, according to Sandisk.

    And Imation offers its notebook-oriented 32GB M-class (Multi-Level Cell) SSD for $179 (an upgrade kit including transfer software and cables for $219), and the enterprise/server-oriented S-class (Single-Level Cell) 32GB for $599.

  • Media Hubs: LinkSys' new NMH4 Media Hub includes a drive and an extra bay, in three models -- $299 for 500GB; $349 also has a card reader and small LCD; $429 bumps the drive up to a terabyte.

  • Cloud-Attached Storage: The $79 PogoPlug (http://www.pogoplug.com/), shipping March 2009) is a "web-accessible USB NAS" -- it will connect your external hard drive to the Internet; aimed at consumers, but also useful for businesses as an alternative to FTP.

    Ctera's by-the-month service turns your USB storage device(s) into cloud-attached storage, using their little plug-in USB/Ethernet cube.

SOFTWARE AND WEB APPS:

  • At least three "Instant-on" Pre-Boot Environments (PBE) for X86 machines (i.e., Windows -- dunno if they'll also run on Macs and/or X86's running Linux) were on display, including:

    • HyperSpace (http://www.HyperSpace.com), from Phoenix Technologies (makers of fine BIOs), available as a free-trial download (or you can buy a 1 or three-year subscription), and it has also been shipping on notebooks and motherboards for over a year. Systems with Intel Virtual Technology (VT) should let you run HyperSpace Hybrid and Windows side-by-side, and toggle between them; otherwise, you can only run HyperSpace Dual, and you have to shut down and switch explicitly between them.

    • Splashtop (http://www.splashtop.com/) is only available pre-installed -- currently, by include netbook, notebook, desktop and motherboard vendors, including Asus motherboards, and Asus, Lenovo and VoodoPC netbooks/notebooks like the Lenovo S10 and S103 IdeaPad.

    • Good OS's Cloud (http://www.thinkgos.com/), like SplashTop, is only available pre-intalled, e.g. on the upcoming GIGABYTE Touch Netbook M912.

    All three appear to be based on Linux or other *nix-type foundations, The primary goal of all these "instant-ons" is to let you get up and on online fast, into Firefox and/or other Linux apps. Don't expect writable access to files on your disk, and even read-only access to media files may vary.

  • FileMaker, that venerable, popular database program, now looks like a web app (in a good way) in its new version 10, with a contact-sensitive UI. MSRP $300 new, or $179 as an upgrade. Contains both Windows and Mac versions.

  • RoboForm now offers Firefox and MSIE add-ons (they note that the browsers' own password utilities aren't overly secure), and will also offer an online component for access from, and backup to, the Web.

  • Skype's upcoming (February) Windows client will "refresh the Skype experience," including making it easy to track conversations Skype also now has a new client for the Mac, for Android, and for 100+ Java-enabled phones including the T-Mobile G1.

  • Defrag experts Diskeeper now have a Hyperfast feature for working with Solid-State Drives (SSDs).

NETWORKING, CONNECTIVITY, WIRELESS (WiFi, 3G), PERIPHERALS AND ACCESSORIES:

  • Using DisplayLink's USB technology, which lets a display be connected through USB, DLink's new 7" SideStage display lets you add a smallish secondary display for your desktop, e.g., for your IM, calendar and widgit windows.

  • Want a simple, affordable way to let your spouse/SO/kids share your home office computer without putting your hard drive and its files at risk? nDigitus's new iM-Dual Boot (approximately $99) provides a switch to power-down-and-reboot among two (more, in later versions) SATA hard drives, disconnecting all the other drives. Think of it as "extreme multi-booting and partitioning done in hardware." Won't solve everybody's problems; will solve many well.

  • TrendNet will add to its Easy-N Upgrader line with an upcoming DualBand (b/g and a) 802.11n router you can connect to an existing wired/wireless router. MSRP $140-ish, due out by June. Alos check out TrendNet's Wireless N Travel Router, to turn an Ethernet port (e.g., in a hotel or conference room) into a multi-user b/g/n wireless zone. $89 for the full kit.

  • Boingo Wireless (a WiFi hot-spot aggregating service) released clients for iPhone, iTouch, Windows Mobile, and some Java phones.
  • Novatel's new MiFI intelligent mobile hot spot combines 3G (you'll need a contract with a service provider, of course) and an up-to-five-user WiFi router. And an onboard GPS. Even cooler, the onboard Linux OS can host software apps, and Novatel will be opening up the API. Available by mid-2009; MSRP $209 (before carrier subsidy); available in CDMA, and North American and world GSM versions.

POWER!

  • Wireless power -- Fulton Innovation and its partners were showing the eCoupled wireless power, e.g., to power a kitchen blender, charge power tools on a workbench or in their carry-in-your-car case, and more. It works!

    Another wireless charger seen: WildCharge, will require device-specific or generic per-device adapters.

  • Portable power! iGo's new AC charger and surge suppressor "throttles down" charging to devices when the battery is full, to avoid wasting power. MobioGear's Combo Travel Charger (http://www.mobiogear.com/featured.html) provides a mobile 2-AA charger and USB charger ports with the AC adapter built in, very all-in-one -- available end of February.

  • Sun up! Solar Wholesale (http://solarwholesaledirect.com) was showing a range of solar chargers, from handheld through backpack size ($30-$300). (The $300 laptop bag will generate about a half-hour of notebook power in a day, not that much.)
  • Blow ye winds! Kinesis' MSRP $99 K2 (http://www.kinesisindustries.com/products.php) can charge from sun and wind, and store power in its battery, up to 4KmA. Waterproof; AC adapter for pre-charging; available May 2009. (Another vendor had big bath-towel sized notebook-class chargers, for about $1K.)

  • Fuel Cells Available With More Coming! Horizon Fuel Cell Technologie (http://www.horizonfuelcell.com/) was showing its drop-in solid-state metal hydride cartridge devices, including mini (hand-sized), hopefully out later this year with a device MSRP of $49 or less and 5-10 watt-hour canisters around $5-10 each; and the three-ish pound HydroPak portable (http://www.horizonfuelcell.com/portable_power.htm), providing 50 watts of 110 volt AC -- enough to recharge a notebook -- plus a 5V USB port. (Canisters will initially be disposable; Horizon hope to make subsequent generations refillable.) And Aqua Battery System's NoPoPo aqua batteries (http://www.aps-j.jp/english/apsj011.html) -- available in form factors including AA cells -- activate when you put water in, and can be re-used up to five times.

  • Shake it! The nPower PEG Personal Energy Generator will charge handheld and mobile devices as you walk, jog, or run, at -- they say -- about the same level as wall-charging. Available mid-2009, initial price around $149, perhaps cheaper as they make (and sell) larger volumes. (Finally, a good use for active toddlers!)

MOBILE, MUSIC AND MEDIA MISCELLANY:

  • Astound Stereo's surround-sound software for PC and Mac turns existing sound (e.g., MP3s, videos) into surround sound. Nifty!

  • Internet radios now come in a wider range of prices, like VTech's $200ish Internet Radio, which includes front-side speakers, and can access PC, Mac or iPod files; the Sanyo R227 Internet Radio, MSRP $169; and Sonoro Audio, with Internet/FM radios up to $499.

  • Headsets:

    Altec Lansing (now owned by Plantronics) introduced a bunch of headsets including the music-oriented BackBeat 906 wireless stereo Bluetooth headphones with mike (MSRP $129.95), including dual mikes, a "pause, I want to take this call" button, and a "let me hear what's going on around me" open-mike button.

    For Mac-using desktoppers, the new version of Plantronics' wireless Callisto headset can now import Apple Address Book contact info as well as Microsoft Outlook, along with other new features.

  • SanDisk's new slotMusic lets the download/rip-averse buy micro-SD cards with a thousand tunes on them for $39 -- less than a nickel per song -- and software to turn most phones into MP3 players (or you can buy a SanDisk slotRadio player, or upgrade any Sansa Fuze player). Will the music-loving public opt for this flavor of simplicity? Time will tell.

AUTOMOTIVE, HOME AND SUNDRIES:

  • Turn your car's in-dash cigarette lighter socket into a power supply, with either the Duracell/Xantrex "spark plug" USB charger ($15-ish) or the in-dash pocket inverter providing 100-watts of AC power ($29-39ish), or FlightLighter's in-dash USB charger and/or USB/12V charger, MSRP $29.95.

  • Listen to Internet radio in your car, by Bluetoothing your 3G phone to the MiRoamer Internet car radio -- $300-400, available late 2009. Possibly cheaper than XM/Sirius, seems like it would be better to have this as a mobile device that Bluetooths the output to the car stereo.

  • Bundling products with "... for Dummies" booklets is going gangbusters. I spotted "Flash Drive with Online Backup for Dummies" (using SOS as the partner), "Bluetooth Headset for Dummies," "Bluetooth Car Kit...," "PC-to-PC File Transfer..." and a bunch of home cable/theater "...for Dummies" packs.

  • Roomba now offers strong floor/rug cleaners, including a pet-grade (extra brushes), and the professional series for bigger and industrial spaces, and the new version of its Luge gutter cleaner has a flexible augur and no external antenna. (It still needs a helicopter or long-pole deployment system, though, in my opinion.)

  • Schlage now has wireless controlled door locks with multiple codes, which can also do alerts, like "It's 2PM and your kid just came in..."

And that's some of what I saw. Like the song in THE MOST HAPPY FELLA goes, "Ooh my feet! My poor, poor feet!"

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