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Thursday, January 8, 2009

CES - Tech Evolution, Not Revolution

Source : InformationWeek
The biggest tech industry event of the year-Consumer Electronics Show, is expected to highlight evolutionary products that are unlikely to shake up the market but will showcase advancements in digital TVs, home networking, and mobile computing.

Indeed, the glitzy Las Vegas show is smaller than last year's, as vendors have scaled back in anticipation of fewer attendees in the current economic recession. In addition, CES has less star power, with Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) founder Bill Gates no longer giving the opening night keynote, a job he filled for the last 11 years.
Instead, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer on Wednesday night will address attendees

While unlikely to be jaw-dropping, the new products hawked at the show will cover many of the most exciting markets, including smartphones, third-generation netbooks, slimmer and better-looking digital TVs, touch-screen laptops, and gaming.

Lenovo, for example, is hoping to stand out from the crowd of computer makers with a slim, all-in-one desktop and a dual-screen laptop, one of several mobile PCs the vendor plans to unveil. The ThinkPad W700ds has a 17-inch LCD screen and a 10.6-inch display that slides out to the right, according to the Reuters news agency. The second screen is meant to mimic work environments where dual screens are used. The 11-pound system will sell for $3,600.

Lenovo also plans to showcase its thinnest and lightest 16-inch laptop, the IdeaPad Y650. The system weighs 5.6 pounds, measures an inch at its thinnest point, and will cost $1,199 when it's available in March, the company said.

The all-in-one IdeaCentre A600, which measures one inch at its thinnest point, is among the slimmest desktops of its kind, according to the world's fourth-largest PC maker. The desktop has a 21.5-inch frameless screen, a number of entertainment-focused features, an Intel Core 2 dual-core processor, and up to 4 GB of memory and a 1-TB hard drive. Scheduled to be available in April, the system is expected to sell for a starting price of $999.

Hewlett-Packard also plans to showcase thin and light notebooks, including the Mini 2140, which features an all-aluminum case and a 10-inch light-emitting diode screen. The system weighs 2.6 pounds, includes an 80-GB hard drive, and is powered by an Intel Atom processor. The netbook is scheduled to be available this month and sell for a starting price of $499.

HP also plans to highlight an ultraportable laptop, the Pavilion dv2, that features Advanced Micro Devices' new mobile platform for ultrathin notebooks. The AMD technology, comprising its Athlon Neo microprocessor and an ATI Radeon 3000 series graphic processor, will be launched at the show. The Pavilion dv2 sports a 12-inch display, weighs 3.8 pounds, and is less than an inch thick. Pricing and availability weren't disclosed.

HP also plans to show off two gaming desktops, the Firebird 802 and 803. Both run on Intel Core 2 quad-core processors and will be available this month. Pricing was not disclosed, but the high-end machines, which have liquid-cooling systems, are sure to be expensive.

For home networking and backup, HP plans to showcase its Windows-based MediaSmart Server, which will be available next month. The home server has up to 1.5 TB of storage, which provides a central repository for backing up and accessing digital music, videos, photos, and other files from multiple computers on a home network. The server, which starts at $599, supports Windows PCs and Apple Macs running Leopard using Apple Time Machine software.

One area of focus at CES will be in connecting the Internet to the home television, a much better venue for watching online video than a PC. Intel and Yahoo are expected to discuss their continuing efforts. Yahoo offers mini-applications that draw content from the Web using the TV's remote control. Companies that will showcase the TV Widgets at CES include Samsung Electronics, which plans to include the applications in select models of its flat-panel high-definition TVs shipping this year.
Other companies showcasing Web-to-TV products include LG Electronics, which plans to make Netflix's online movies available in broadband-connected sets that will be available this spring. The company also plans to show off Blu-ray disc players that can access YouTube videos and movies on CinemaNow. Those products are also set to ship in the first half of this year.

Vendors in general are expected to feature slimmer and bigger TVs using organic light-emitting diode screens, which Sony and Samsung showcased last year. OLED displays provide more vivid colors and overall better picture quality than LCD screens, but are also considerably more expensive. The technology also makes it possible to create thinner TVs.

Cisco is rumored to be planning on giving a peek at a multiroom wireless music system, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Cisco, however, will not have a booth at the show. Other vendors staging media events for new products, but have opted out of the showroom included Sanyo and Philips Electronics.

Another likely focus at CES is 3-D technology that brings the special effect to the home TV. Hollywood movie studios are driving 3-D technology, which makes it possible to have objects and characters appear to jump off the screen. Walt Disney Pictures released its Bolt animated film late last year in 3-D, and DreamWorks is among the studios planning such movies this year.

Companies planning to highlight 3-D technology at CES include Nvidia, which will be showing off a 3-D gaming technology called GeForce 3D Vision. The company is also partnering with companies like Mitsubishi, Samsung, and Viewsonic, which are planning to bring 3-D technology to the TV and are likely to have some surprises for CES.

Along with the usual keynotes from tech bigwigs, vendors will be using celebrities to lure customers to events. Sports stars scheduled to make appearances include Ryan Therlot of the Chicago Cubs, superstar Hanley Ramirez of the Florida Marlins, Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain, and Oakland A's slugger Matt Holiday. Singer and actress Diana Ross is scheduled to perform an invitation-only concert.

Scheduled keynote speakers include Howard Stringer, chairman and chief executive of Sony; Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Ford; Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel; and John Chambers, chairman and chief executive of Cisco.

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