The Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a tech geek feast with thousands of consumer gadgets, technology, and accessories — far too much to cover in one read. CNET had more than 50 reporters covering the show, however, here are my observations on some relevant companies.
All my CES Photo’s are here.
HP — new category of home servers. The HP MediaSmart Server uses AMD 1.8Ghz 64-bit Sempron processor.
Raon Digital — Korean based company launched the Vega (Ultra mobile device). An ultra portable PC device that looks like the Sony PSP. The Vega uses the AMD Geode LX800 processor running Windows XP Home edition. Excellent messaging with usage models laser beam focused on navigation, internet and multimedia.
LIVE! — Boasted they were powering the smarter HD experience. HDTV premium cable TV support (with the new ATI TV Wonder); Blu-Ray and HD-DVD playback at 1080p and enhanced audio features with integrated 7.1 audio amplifier. The TV Wonder can handle a number of standards, from NTSC analog television to ATSC over-the-air digital television and, of course, digital cable. The digital tuner is capable of handling all common HDTV resolutions, up to and including 1080p, due to AMD custom chips. Analog tuning capabilities are provided by an ATI Theater 550 chip, while an NXT2003 handles DTV duties. For digital cable, the TV Wonder does no video decompression. It simply receives encrypted data via the cable system and outputs a compressed video stream to the PC. Not just any PC can connect to this TV Wonder. It must meet a stringent set of requirements, including OCUR support in the BIOS and support for HDCP (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection). The PC must also be running one of the versions of Windows Vista—Home Premium or Ultimate—with built-in Media Center functionality. Media Center support for OCUR must then be activated with a code, much like Windows Vista activation. Other CES news for AMD here.
Microsoft’s Xbox 360 — the video game console will soon get an online television service based on the company’s IPTV software. The service will offer on-demand video, channel guides, digital video recording, and other features. Gates told the CES audience that IPTV providers like AT&T, British Telecom and Deutsche Telecom can now use the Xbox 360 as their set-top box in those deployments. The Xbox 360 can now act as an alternative receiver and recorder. Gaming has always been the supposed killer app of interactive television, so by selling IPTV to the gaming generation, Microsoft may have come up with a brilliant marketing angle.
LG (BH100) introduced the first combo Blu-Ray/HD-DVD player. Although expensive at $1,200, the player puts pressure on other deck makers to adopt both formats and, more importantly, allows potential buyers to finally purchase discs according to which movie they like–not which player they own. LG also introduced a $1,199 computer drive, model GGW-H10N, capable of playing HD DVDs and playing and recording Blu-ray discs at up to 4x speed. It can also read and write DVDs and CDs.
Automobile Navigation and Infotainment:
Dash Express — is the first portable navigation system to have built-in two-way connectivity (cellular and Wi-Fi), giving drivers access to information via the Internet and the network of other Dash-connected users. The system display real-time traffic data, which comes from the network of other Dash drivers, while Web connectivity gives drivers a points-of-interest database served up by Yahoo Local, with whom Dash announced a partnership last week. Its Yahoo Local search gives drivers access to a points-of-interest database as big as the Web itself, and Dash throws in neat features such as the ability to search for gas stations by fuel price and for movie theaters by showtime.
Sync — In Gates keynote, generated a lot of buzz at the show and a CNET CES award, however, Sync is essentially the Microsoft Blue & Me product announced a year ago with Fiat. Fiat had a one-year global exclusive; now Ford has a one year exclusive in the U.S. market. Sync is more robust according to Microsoft, but it’s missing the GPS navigation feature. Sync is a small, in-dash computer running Windows Automotive, with 256 Mbytes of RAM and a 400-MHz StrongArm 11 processor. More than 50 cars already use Windows Automotive as an in-car operating system. Initially to be made available in twelve 2008 models across the Ford family and across the entire 2009 lineup from FoMoCo, the service will be a fully-integrated, flash memory-based system that enables drivers to call hands-free and to control a range of digital audio via voice commands and buttons mounted on the steering wheel. Microsoft stated that its software will be updatable, probably via the USB port. However, with Blue & Me cars, the user could request navigation instructions using the cellphone. A remote computer parses the request, confirms it’s the address or business you want, then downloads navigation instructions and rudimentary maps, navigating via arrows. The route instructions are spoken through the car speakers; the map information appears on the radio faceplate.
MediaFlo — Verizon Wireless partnered with MediaFlo to create a truly watchable TV-on-phone experience. V Cast Mobile TV offers full-length, live television programming on selected handsets via a dedicated UHF signal. There’s little of the pixelated, choppy effects of 3G video streaming, and audio/video syncing and channel switching is zippy. I’ve not been a large proponent of steaming TV on cell phones, but the quality of this solution will increasingly get people to use cell phones to watch videos.
Samsung — (FP-T5894W) wireless TV, the first of its kind, comes with a separate base station that accepts connections from A/V gear and wirelessly transmits to the 58-inch plasma panel via 802.11n at a range of up to 300 feet. Bit rates up to 150Mbps–plenty for 1080p video. This Samsung is the first big-screen integrated wireless TV I’ve seen. Sidebar: Samsung was the only booth with “no photo” tags everywhere. People ignored the tags, but made me wonder why they had them?
Sharp — claimed to have the world’s largest LCD TV: the 108-inch 1080p Aquos
Sony — BRAVIA Internet Video System. Sony announced this free service to be offered on the majority of new Sony televisions starting with several Bravia LCD TVs. The new televisions will accept an attachable module called the Bravia Internet Video Link, can stream broadband high-definition and other internet video content with the press of a remote control button. Sony said the module will be available summer 2007. Partners include AOL, Yahoo and Grouper, now part of Sony Pictures Entertainment, as well as Sony Pictures itself and Sony BMG. Executives from the first three companies joined Glasgow for a demonstration to show off a range of content from Movies to Sports events and even user generated content. The Sony Xross Media Bar (XMB), an icon-based user interface similar to what is already found on PlayStation 3 (PS3), PSP and a recently introduced Sony A/V receiver, made its debut in conjunction with the Internet video demo. The device doesn’t need a PC.
OLED – Sony had a dozen prototype organic-light-emitting-diode (OLED) screens, on display (see picture). They featured an incredible 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio (compared to ratios of 5,000:1 for conventional LCD TVs) and a 180-degree viewing range, and, most of all, they were super thin—a 27-inch model was only 10-mm thick.
BRAVIA KDL-70XBR3, 70 inch 1080p LCD and first to offer x.v.Color, MotionFlow (120hz fast-frame rate), 10-bit pane and processing, Triluminos LED backlighting with 7000:1 contrast ratio.
Gefen — launched a $500 Wireless HDMI Extender showcasing 1080p video.
Samsung — showcased the SPH-P9000 WiMax Phone. The latest in mobile convergence device. It’s a PDA-based device utilizing Mobile WiMax and CDMA EV-DO connectivity for wireless access to the Internet and simultaneously providing mobile phone connection for voice communication.
CellSTART — allows users to control keyless entry, remote start and vehicle security systems through cell phones. The product uses proprietary software that provides a graphical interface on the cell phone for functions such as unlocking and locking doors, starting and stopping the engine, and providing notifications to users in the event of vehicle theft. CellSTART was developed by Crayon Interface, and is manufactured and distributed by JBS Technologies. CellSTART is supported by Crayon Interface’s Moshi wireless platform technology. Moshi turns cell phones into remote control and monitoring devices through graphical software downloaded over-the-air to phones and a data network for dispatching messages between cell phones and various devices.
Starz (Vongo) — partnered with Microsoft to bundle/pre-load Vongo’s application on all PCs and Laptops shipped with Vista OS. Vongo is a video downloading service offering unlimited subscription access to hit movies, TV shows, and more, all for just $9.99 per month. Subscribers can browse the video library from a TV set through a networked PC when the TV is connected to a Windows Media Center Extender such as Xbox 360. Users and download the movie and stream it to another part of the home network. Downloads can reside on up to three devices, including laptops and portable media players (based on Microsoft’s Portable Media Center Version 2).
CBS — partnered with Sling Media’s “place-shifting” technology to let users access premium home channels while away from any Internet-connected device, on a test of a service that will allow users to share short segments of CBS programming. The Clip+Sling service will allow owners of Sling Media’s Slingbox device to clip and share content directly from live or recorded TV shows with both other Slingbox owners and others over the Internet.
Sony — BRAVIA Internet Video System a free service to be offered on the majority of new Sony televisions starting with several Bravia LCD TVs. The new televisions will accept an attachable module called the Bravia Internet Video Link, can stream broadband high-definition and other internet video content with the press of a remote control button. Sony said the module will be available summer 2007. Partners include AOL, Yahoo and Grouper, now part of Sony Pictures Entertainment, as well as Sony Pictures itself and Sony BMG. Executives from the first three companies joined Glasgow for a demonstration to show off a range of content from Movies to Sports events and even user generated content. The Sony Xross Media Bar (XMB), an icon-based user interface similar to what is already found on PlayStation 3 (PS3), PSP and a recently introduced Sony A/V receiver, made its debut in conjunction with the Internet video demo. The device doesn’t need a PC.
The new standard for the highest-quality digital A/V connection, and being dubbed as “the 1080p of 2007.” HDMI Licensing LLC, the company behind the connection, along with Mitsubishi and Dolby, did their best to convince people about the benefits of the new HDMI standard. The net-net: HDMI 1.3 has more than twice the bandwidth of the previous version (10.2 Gbps vs. 4.95 Gbps), which allows manufacturers of all flavors to offer a range of future extras. These can include: Deep Color (HDMI is limited to 8-bit); Wider Color Gamut; support for Dolby and DTS lossless audio formats; Lip-Sync compensation. The only confirmed devices with HDMI 1.3 are the PlayStation 3 and the upcoming Toshiba HD-XA2 HD-DVD player and Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 1080 projector (model EPM-TW1000).
Vista RESCUE — hard to miss, from the gigantic Vista banner at the airport, to the exclusive space completely separate from Microsoft’s main booth, promoting the new operating system (Consumer launch set for Jan. 30, 2007). Most all hardware vendors talking about its plans to incorporate Vista in upcoming models so the buzz on the floor is positive and interest seems high.
HP — Touch-screen capability is a standard feature in Windows Vista Home Premium, and HP has put it to use in a $1,799 TouchSmart PC IQ770. Many features you’d expect in a midrange all-in-one PC system (DVD burner, Wi-Fi, wireless mouse and keyboard), HP also included an application suite called SmartCenter. The apps include an organizer/calendar and photo-editing software that are all touch screen-driven and ridiculously easy to use. Families will want this.
Sony — VAIO XL3 Digital Living Room System. Included a Blu-ray DVD burner, CableCard support for digital cable reception, and Windows Vista Home Premium. Had a Core 2 Duo, 2GB memory, a 500GB hard drive, and a GeForce 7600 GTL graphics card with an HDMI output. It also comes with both NTSC and ATSC tuners, for analog cable and over-the-air HD, respectively. Not cheap for a $3,300 PC, but Blu-ray burners and Sony-engineered component-style chassis have never come cheap.
Sony — VAIO TP1 Living Room System. Spherical shaped PC encased in lacquer white elegant skin. Dubbed the PC intelligence for your TV-browser with built-in TV tuners, wireless LAN, Media Center and HDMI connectivity.
Alienware — Area 51 m9750. Core 2 Duo (overclocking is an option) up to 2GB of 667MHz RAM and two 7,200rpm hard drives with up to 400GB total capacity, and two Nvidia GeForce Go 7950 graphics cards in a scalable link interface for fast gaming performance. Laptop is Vista-based w/ 17-inch screen is the first to hit the market with two graphics cards. Also includes an integrated TV tuner as well as a Blu-ray drive. Alienware is trying to hit a price point for less than $2,000–which would make it one of the most affordable gaming laptops.
HP — a new batch of devices unveiled at the Microsoft keynote is the HP MediaSmart Server (AMD 1.8Ghz 64-bit Sempron processor), which runs Windows Home Server. You can access into the MediaSmart Server from an Internet-connected computer anywhere in the world to access your files and applications, leveraging enhanced security features. With four hard drive bays and four USB ports for external drives, Vista-compatible the MediaSmart Server can be an ideal solution for centralizing and sharing your growing media library.
Hardware & Software Innovation:
Powercast (formerly Firefly Power Technologies) — (Pennsylvania start-up; John Shearer, CEO) is looking to change the way we interact and charge our handheld gadgets. They use energy from a transmitted RF signal to power small, battery-operated devices–cell phones and wireless PC peripherals. The transmitter can be placed in anything that plugs into the wall (lamps, alarm clocks, and so on) and can send a low, continuous signal to small gadgets that contain an embedded receiver.
EyeSpot — Offers drag and drop flash video editing direct to consumers and in partnership with companies like Blip.tv and Veoh. Competitor Jumpcut was acquired by Yahoo! last month. From cell phone ring tones to short video clips, online multimedia editing is clearly being bet on as the next step for the YouTube generation. Veoh has Michael Eisner and Overture’s last CEO Ted Meisel on its board. Blip.tv is the foundation of CNN’s new citizen video initiative. Partnerships like this make Eyespot look like VideoEgg, the company that provides browser based video capture to social networking sites from Bebo to Dogster. Liz Gannes reports that Eyespot also has partnerships with Lions Gate Entertainment, Current TV, Zomba/Jive, TVT, Columbia, Epic, Island Records, and Concord Records.
Bones in Motion — location-aware application developer. Launched at DEMO 2006 their first products is BiM Active and BiM Active Online which are fitness tracking and logging solutions for people living healthy lifestyles. Partnered with Verizon Wireless, runners can easily track, store and share running routes and important training information while listening to music on their Verizon Phones.
JuiceCaster — Mobile Social Network. Juice Wireless, creators of the moblogging platform JuiceCaster. As a consumer-facing site, I found it unconvincing – not clear if it’s mobile photo sharing, or moblogging? Perhaps it’s MySpace for cellphones? It’s hard to tell.
WaveMarket — WaveBlog enables consumers to create location-aware multimedia Weblogs with their mobile phones using an innovative map-based interface. Content can be for private use like a family photo album, or published publicly where the user-generated comments and pictures are categorized, ranked and location-tagged to enable dynamic real-time mobile communities. SMS messages link you to the hippest club-goer through the Entertainment Portal community, allowing you to view pictures of club scenes in real-time. Sell your restaurant reservation to someone nearby. Be warned by the Weblog community of pickpockets around the Roman Coliseum. Mobile users will become the biggest sources of location-specific information and media, accessible by mobile phone or PC.
Smarter Agent — combines mobile location technology, such as GPS, with information about real estate, neighborhoods and interesting places around you. By delivering location-relevant content to mobile devices and the Internet, consumers and professionals can learn, interact and transact with the world around them.
ES3 — A method of identifying content properties such that “the content” can be rendered in many different ways targeting the needs of the end-user. Solution increases revenue opportunities for the Content Provider/Portals and increases Broadband efficiencies for the Telcos. Based on “rich” Meta Data, the ES3 method can identify and “remove” undesired content elements at time of rendering and allows for personalization of content by the end-user
Raon Digital — Korean based company launched the Vega. An ultra portable PC device that looks like the Sony PSP. The Vega uses the AMD Geode LX800 processor running Windows XP Home edition. Excellent messaging with usage models laser beam focused on navigation, internet and multimedia. No information on software eco-system support.
Agere — The portable media usage scenario is: user has cellphone, user has portable media device, user wishes portable media device could be integrated into cellphone so user only needs to take with them one device. Agere’s new BluOnyx device, by way of Bluetooth, SD card, or USB, users load up their BluOnyx which wirelessly transfers via Bluetooth to the user’s cellphone for playback. Ability to easily broadcast video to everyone (or just your specified friends) in your vicinity via Bluetooth, or quickly backup your phone to a portable hard drive are interesting ideas, it’s not clear that the novelty is enough to get you to leave your media player at home.
Las Vegas, the city that never sleeps…
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