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Tech Tips 203

Hot Tech Toys - CES 2009 Recap

By Eugenia Loli-Queru - Sunday, February 1, 2009

One more year, one more CES trade show in Las Vegas. Except one particular announcement that made the rounds in the tech blogs, this year most announcements were lower key than in the past, possibly mirroring the shoe-string budget in R&D this past year.


The biggest announcement of them all was Palm's Pre smartphone. Based on Linux, this new web-enabled Javascript-based platform is coming to challenge the iPhone and Android. The phone was designed by one of the original designers of the iPhone. Its biggest new feature is Synergy, which allows messaging to work transparently with many services, e.g. Facebook, Gmail, IM, SMS, etc. It also supports application multi-tasking, gestures, wireless charging, and it sports a hardware keyboard. Sprint will be the first carrier to sell the phone this Spring.


Speaking of wireless charging, Powerbeam is set to revolutionize "the mode of power transmission by integrating optical technology to produce safe, reliable and abundant wireless power." No more cables everywhere in the house and a computer room that's a walking hazard! FlatWire is another semi-wireless power concept, that allows you to paint a line from your power source to a device rather than use real cables!


Sony announced the Vaio P "pocket" netbook with an ultra-wide high-resolution screen. The laptop is expected to sell at over $1000, making it less competitive than most netbooks on the market. Many other manufacturers, mostly from Asia, have shown off their take on the new trend of netbooks and mini PCs, although few have made innovations. DELL also announced their new laptops, the Mini 10 netbook -- a model that sits in the range between their Mini 9 and Mini 12-- and their new brand for laptops, the super-secret Adamo. The Adamo brand uses brushed metal and glass and it's one of the few DELL laptops to have keyboard illumination. Dell did not offer many details about these products, as they are not ready yet for consumption. Dell was not shy about its XPS Dragon System though, its first under $1000 gaming PC, and Wasabi, its first portable inkless printer.


In the meantime, Microsoft announced their first public beta of their next generation operating system, Windows 7. The OS is hailed by some as one of the best OSes Microsoft ever produced, and it's hoped to quickly take over the failed (for some) Vista. Speed and stability are reportedly better than Vista's. According to testers, the new taskbar of Windows 7 seems to be its best new user-visible feature. The OS is expected to be released before the end of the year.


In the past year LCD TV prices have reached the bottom helping the technology to outsell plasmas in sales, even if its technical aspects are lacking in comparison. Last year at CES, we were led to believe that Quad-HD and OLED technologies are in our near future, but this year we had almost no such TV on display, except a few prototypes. Instead, the TV manufacturers are trying to take the easier way out, by offering TVs that can refresh at 200 or 240 Hz -- a feature that is not all that interesting -- and super-slim LCDs. Plasma fought back through Panasonic with new models that use less power. NVidia demonstrated a 3D display that brings TV picture to life, but these TVs are still not consumer-ready and are currently best only with games rather than movies. The 3D aspect seems to be the next big step on Hollywood movies, as more and more films are shot using the Real-3D technology.  Even some TV shows are getting on the 3D bandwagon with NBC’S “Chuck” returning on Feb. 2nd with a 3D episode.


In the camcorder world, JVC, Sony, Panasonic and Canon had new consumer camcorder models announced, with Canon stealing the thunder again with their HF-S series. Their HF-S10 and HF-S100 models out-spec any other consumer camcorder in the market with enough manual controls, brand new 8 megapixel sensor design, 24p support and more. Until now, the Canon HV series were the defacto power in the serious videography circles at consumer prices, but for most, the HF-S series will replace them. The HF-S series are expected to cost between $1300 and $1500. Canon also refreshed their well-sold HV series with the HV40 model that adds native 24p recording on tape.


Other interesting products were ASUS' Eee Keyboard PC (an all-in-one PC inside a keyboard), the ASUS AIRO laptop with its amazing sliding keyboard, LG's cellphone in a wrist watch, the Motorola Aura phone with its unique circular design, USB 3.0 (to be ready in 2010), Samsung's multi-touch TV, the Linux-based Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-G3 digicam with WiFi support, the Wrap 920AV video glasses that are see-through and allow you to both watch video and see in front of you, the Psyko 5.1 headphones that reproduce 3-D surround sound, while everything else fell into the realm of "normal".


Hopefully, next year the world economy rebounds, and produces some more revolutionary products!

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