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Thursday, January 11, 2007

CES Wrap-Up: Cool Upcoming Gadgets
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In between all the great panels I was covering this week at CES, I spent time on the floor walking endless laps around the massive Las Vegas convention center. (Seriously, I have blisters on my feet right now). There were tons of cools gadgets and new services being showcased. Here are a few things that really stood out for me:

* High-def format war solutions: LG announced a dual format high-def DVD player called the "Super Multi Blue Player" that will play both next-generation high-def DVD formats (HD-DVD & Blu-Ray). I think that's great news and other dual players are likely to follow now. Also, Warner Brothers will start developing dual-format “Total High Def” hybrid movie discs that have both the Blu-Ra and HD-DVD versions of the movie on them.

* Cell phones that double as TVs: I visited a few wireless booths where manufacturers were highlighting cell phones that could show live TV. At the Qualcomm booth I actually got to play with an upcoming Verizon phone that will be powered by Qualcomm's MediaFlo technology. The picture looked very good and the channel surfing was on par with what we've come to expect from most cable boxes.

* Super-thin TV: You think plasmas and LCDs are thin? Just wait till you see Sony's razor-thin OLED video displays. I'm not kidding, they are paper thin. And the picture was just stunning. I could not believe how bright it was compared to other video display technologies. Every time I passed by the Sony booth a huge crowd was gathered around these things pointing at them with their jaws dropped. The gigantic 103-108" LCDs from Sharp and LG made a lot of news at the show, but I really think that these new super-thin OLEDs were the more important development on the video display front.

* The death of A/V cables: Consumers have long hated the headaches that go along with the tangle of wires behind their home A/V devices and, luckily, wireless digital video "cabling" solutions finally appear ready for prime-time.
Phillips, Gefen, and Neosonik all had wireless HDMI products on hand. Personally, I'm sticking with hard-wired solutions for now because you can't beat them in terms of reliability and quality. But it's good to see wireless A/V solutions finally coming to market for those who want or need them.

* WiMax reality: Sprint announced that WiMax rollout begins in Chicago and DC this year. That's great news, especially because my home town is one of the first two to get it! Hopefully more wireless broadband solutions will follow in other markets.

* Playing Xbox everywhere: During his opening keynote address, Bill Gates handed the podium over to Justin Hutchinson who oversees Vista development. While some of the improvements or innovations to the OS he discussed were expected, one that caught a lot of people by surprise was the announcement that Vista would allow Xbox owners to continue their gaming experience on their PCs wherever they are at via the Net. That is great news for Xbox fanatics like me. I can't tell you how much I missed playing "Gears of War" and NHL2K7" while I was out at CES! But as my colleague Patrick Ross commented to me after hearing this announcement, "I wonder if people will get anything done at work anymore!" Indeed. Also, I guess this means I'll have to start packing a Xbox controller in my briefcase or suitcase whenever I go anywhere now.

To see more great gadgets from this year's CES, check out Engadget and Crave.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 2:00 PM | Generic Rant

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