I’ll be at Mix10 this year in Las Vegas March 15th to 17th. If you’ll be there, let me know, I’d love to meet up.
I’m off to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for the 3rd year in a row. I LOVE THIS CONFERENCE. It’s a gadget geek’s dream. I’ll be pimpin’ Windows Marketplace in the Communications section of Booth 7144 in the Central Hall. At our booth, you’ll be able to find out why Windows Marketplace and the Digital Locker are so freakin’ cool. In our booth you’ll be able to find out about countless other Microsoft products, including Windows Vista, Media Center (which is built into Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Vista) and a whack of Windows Live services. Drop by and say Hi!
Hopefully I’ll be able to ditch booth duty for enough time to be able to compile an updated versions of the “Oddest and Worst” and the “Best of“. For those interested, all my coverage from last year’s CES is here.
This continues my stream of summary posts on CES 2006.. Here is my post on “The Best of CES 2006” according to the Trevin scale of hotness. There is no categorization or priotization to this list.. i’m way too lazy for that (quite honestly, are you at all surprised?). There were so many cool things on display, I can’t capture nearly everything that is worthy.. here’s what stood out to me the most as a gadget-head.
Belkin CableFree Wireless USB hub
This is going to find it’s place in people’s homes VERY quick. It’s based on FreeScale’s short range ultra-wideband technology. It’s a wireless USB hub, which allows you to connect devices to your PC without any wires at all. All your devices connect to the hub as normal, but the hub is connected to your PC wirelessly. Not only is this cheaper than having each device wifi enabled, but it wil be brain dead simple to setup — plug and play.
Motorola iRadio (link)
I’m guessing that many people out there not only have a decent size digital music collection (i’ve got over 5000 songs in my library), but also want to listen to radio-style content (music, talk shows, news, etc) and stream it to devices like your car, PC, laptop and cell phone.
Motorola has done it with their iRadio music service. It allows you to tote around your own music collection and for $7/month, content from 435 commercial-free radio channels. Your cell phone acts as the center of this system, where you connect your cell phone to your PC and can download music from the iRadio commercial-free radio stations or from your own music collection. The first integration is supposed to be with the new Motorola Rockr E2.
You then can bring the phone whereever you are, in the car, at the office, in your living room, and your phone will connect with the appropriate device and stream the music through bluetooth. Cool! The only downside is that you have to really have huge amounts of storage on the phone — you’re basically limited to 2GB in SD/MiniSD cards at this point (Which are really pricey).
This will be the year of Windows Media Player based MP3 players, mark my words. We keep hearing the tales of ‘iPod killers”, but this one is a serious contender. Not only is it sleek and small to rival the latest generation iPod, it also is built from better materials (nice brushed aluminum!) and has a really rich feature set.
-2.4″ cololor display, can play music and videos
-20 hours of audio, 5 hrs of video
-Standardized navigation based on portable media center v2 which has received rave reviews
-integrates with Xbox 360 and Tivo Series 2
On top of these features, it also matches the iPod video in capacity and price. 30GB for $299 and 60GB for $399. A notable feature is the interop with the Vongo video service which serves all-you-can-eat movies for $9.99 a month. As long as your subscription is active you’ll be able to watch movies on your Gigabeat S. This is a boon for those users that woudl normally pay thru the nose at iTunes for their per-movie pricing structure.
A big downside for me on the Gigabeat S is the physical size. In holding it in my hands, it appears to be about 60% thicker than my 30GB iPod Video. Oddly, both the 30GB and 60GB versions of the Gigabeat S will be the same size.
I’ve always wondered how long it would take one of our partners to come up with a great portable music player, and it looks like Toshiba finally did it. I’m anxious to ditch my iPod in favor of this, but I’m going to wait for the first set of reviews before i jump the gun. If i can succesfully ditch my ipod, i can finally get rid of iTunes and have teh great integration at home that I’ve always wanted between my PC, mp3 player and MCE in my living room. Now i just have to decide whether the improved integration is worth the tradeoff for the increase in size of the player over my iPod video.
It didn’t get that much attention on the showroom floor, but i’m excited about this. Being LED based, it has a number of advantages of tradition lamp-based DLP sets: dramatically longer life (20k vs. 4k hours), brightness does not diminish over time, and most importantly, no rainbows! (many people see rainbows in the display on traditional DLP TVs making them nearly unwatchable). We’ll start seeing these TVs this April and they’re reported to be launching a 56″ model first for just over $4k.
Tivo Series 3 (link)
Tivo is coming out full force this year, lauching their 3rd generation PVR. They’re finally out of the caveman era and are including dual tuners! It’ll also be CableCARD ready and supports HDMI outputs. Other technical fine-print features is that while it still records in MPEG-2, it is capable of playing back MPEG-4 video. I predict some strategy where they start downloading HD content. This new unit also supports an external hard drive via a eSATA connection. They probably did this to curb the ebay/hacking market for replcing the internal drive.. this way they can sell an officially sanctioned Tivo branded external drive for double the price 🙂
Hitach 7″ OLED Display (pic)
If you didn’t look closely enough you would have missed this, but you would have been disappointed because it was one of the best things at CES in my opinion. This screen from hitachi sports the hot new Organic LED (OLED) screens — not only are OLED screens cheaper than traditional LEDs, but they also don’t require any backlight to function so it consumes significantly less power. This translates into longer running times for the dependant devices. The kicer was that the entire display was LESS THAN 2MM thick. WOW. Here’s a pic. Unfortunately Hitachi told me they have no market plans for this yet, but i’m willing to bet money we’ll hear something before 4QCY06.