Tuesday, January 8, 2008

CES 2008: Gadgets Galore and Going Green

The Las Vegas Convention Center is packed with visitors from around the world that are here to see everything from computer products, to home theatre, wireless, imaging, and gadgets. Although the CES show floor (and hotels) seem a bit less crowded this year, there's still no question that there is an overwhelming amount of products to see at the show, and overwhelmingly little time to do it.

Really, what any journalist reports on is going to be based on the most significant product announcements, of course, but also on what he has time to see. It's often the case, however, that we come across a neat product by chance, sometimes just by being attracted to the booth from the mere sight of the item. This is exactly how I discovered Canadian-based Edifier, which is showcasing its sexy, triangular-shaped E3350 speakers in a selection of gorgeous and vibrant finishes. With the ability to connect to a PC or MP3 player via 3.5 mm jack, the E3350 consists of the main sub, plus a pair of two-way satellites, and a separate, circular volume piece that hides a second 3.5 mm jack for connecting an MP3 player, along with a headphone jack. On the show floor, it sounded smooth and pleasant. It is scheduled for availability at the end of February for approx. US$99.

Another interesting product announcement came from Bell ExpressVu, who showed us a concept that would allow its customers to use any, ol' external hard drive to extend the recording capacity of the company's new 9242 HD PVR. With large-capacity hard drives now available for affordable prices (remember my tale of the 1TB drive for $200 on Boxing Day?), a customer would be able to easily utilize a drive to store recordings he wants to archive, like movies or a favourite TV show; or even simply as a back-up. Multiple drives could also be used for various content. Recorded programming will be movable from the PVR to hard drive and vice versa; but you will not be able to transfer content to a PC. What makes this feature even more attractive is that you can resume watching TV while the content is being transferred. (To transfer a standard movie, it takes about 10-15 minutes). This is definitely a feature that Bell ExpressVu customers should be keeping an eye out for. Visit the Videos section on http://www.marketnews.ca/ or http://www.hereshow.ca/ this week to see a full run-down of some additional ways that Bell will be building on this feature, including a partnership with portable media player company Archos.

There were still a few press conferences yesterday, and one notable announcements was Hitachi's 1.5" ultra-thin plasma display. Measuring 50" in size, the attractive flat-panel is expected to be available in 2009. Meanwhile, the company also showed off its new wafer-thin 32" LCD that measures a mere 0.75".

Over at SanDisk, Dr. Eli Harary impressed attendees with his announcement of the company's new 12 GB microSD card for future use in compatible mobile phones. “The mobile phone market is the mother of all growth markets,” he emphasized.

There's certainly plenty of evidence of that on the show floor, with tons of cell phone manufacturers showing off their latest wares and focusing on memory-hungry applications like GPS navigation, and music, video, and photo playback. With all of these fancy, new features coming to the latest mobile phone incarnations, it's no wonder SanDisk sees a lucrative market for high-capacity microSD.

Finally, CES has really been pushing the "green" theme at this year's show, as has been many exhibitors. HP, for example, says its entire booth is "green", including carpeting made from corn! Even the company's pens are made from 100% recycled material, including a cardboard body, and popsicle stick=like handle. Throughout the show, I've seen everything from solar-powered devices, to "green" power-saving devices, and even bags made from recycled materials.

Today is the second official day of the show, and it looks much busier than it did yesterday. With a lot of ground to cover, it's unlikely I'll see every nook and cranny of the show. But from what I've seen thus far, consumer technology is on the way to even more exciting times in 2008.

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