Monday, January 21, 2008

2008 Consumer Electronics Show Review

Well, neither my day job employer, CET, nor the Harrison Press was willing or able to ante up for my travel to the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) which ran January 7 thru 10 in Las Vegas. While I do serve on a national advisory group that held its meeting as part of the show, by the time I found that out the limited hotel rooms were long gone. For the uninitiated, the CES is the largest trade show in the US. This year more than 140,000 (that’s right, one hundred and forty thousand) people attended. For those interested in technology and technology trends, this is as close to heaven as it gets. I have been able to vicariously participate by monitoring various blogs, news reports and getting first hand reports from people who were there.

For as long as I can remember, Bill Gates has always given a Key Note speech to open the show. This year with his upcoming retirement, he announced that this would be his last one. There is a really neat funny video produced as part of his presentation that you just have to see. You can view it anytime on The address is For anyone who follows Microsoft this video is a must.

Spread out over acres and acres of exhibit space were products ranging sfrom giant plasma TVs to cell phone ring tones. Here are a few of the more interesting products and announcements.

The High Definition DVD Player wars seem to be coming to an end. By this time next year the victor should be known. Right now Sony® and its Blue Ray™ technology seem to be winning the battle as more and more content providers are siding with this technology. While Toshiba® and its HD DVD™ system has not yet thrown in the towel, I think they will soon. If most of the good movies are available only on Blue Ray™ it will be tough to fight. Many analysts note that for most people the quality of the picture is just about same for Blue Ray™ and HD DVD™. So content will be king.

Panasonic® obviously feels that “bigger is better” as they displayed the largest Plasma TV in the world. This 150 inch behemoth produces a TV picture that can cover an entire wall. You could use it in your living room where it could double as a “virtual window.” Don’t like looking out your window at your neighbor’s 1964 pick up truck propped up on blocks? Now you can have view of the skyline of New York or the mountains of Colorado. It will cost you, though. Since it is a prototype, a firm sticker price has yet to be set. But as they say, “if you have to ask…?”

I am a bit cautious about even mentioning the next technology since it has been displayed for two or three years and has yet to come to market in any substantial way. It is called WiMax. This technology provides high speed access to the Internet and other computer applications wirelessly over very large areas. You can think of it at WiFi on steroids. While several cell phone providers have data networks, they really are not as fast as a typical connection in your house with DSL or cable modems. If this technology does finally make it to market this year you can look for big changes in what you can do on line in a car, bus or train. Even radio as we know it may change since you will be able to listen to any radio station on line from anywhere in the world using an internet connection in your car. There are still several hurdles to overcome, but vendors promise WiMax network roll outs in Washington DC, New York City and a few other major cities in 2008.

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