"It's evolutionary, not revolutionary" was how one attendee summed up this year's show. And, indeed, the biggest debuts of last week seemed, well, not particularly big. TVs were thinner, cameras zoomier, 3D a step closer to fruition. But game changers were few and far between. And perhaps that's because companies have learned to tone down their promises and time frames.
It's not just big technologies. A few years ago, a grand, gadget-filled future was just around the corner. There'd be cameras that print their own photos! And cell phones with Skype! When you wanted to turn off your TV, you'd just wave your hand and when you wanted to turn on your toys you'd just think hard. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. So it was a pleasant surprise to learn that 2009 was to be the year of fulfilled promise. All those products we'd just about given up hope on were launching at long last. If only we could say it was worth the wait.
Launch the list here for a look at the letdowns.
"Small" is still far from the right word for the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show. But by every measure—both official and anecdotal--it was a slimmer event than in years past. In overall terms, attendance was down by at least 12,000, and probably a good deal more. Last year's official tally was approximately 141,000 visitors. Sources inside CEA say that this year's was well under the 130,000 that had been projected.
Purple is the new black, Sony is telling us, by introducing the “eggplant” color for its new Webbie HD line of pocket-sized camcorders. You can also get them in orange or silver, but I have to admit, eggplant is pretty cool-looking (and according to many of my women friends, indeed the hot new color).
Freeplay Energy's new digital radio has looks inspired by modern design—and electronics inspired by rural Africa. The radio, for sale in Britain, uses low-power tech similar to that in the company's wind-up radios for developing countries. That means it uses 10 times less electricity than an ordinary digital radio, so it can run entirely off a solar panel on its cover. And according to panelists at today's CES session on "Greener Gadgets," it's an example of a how products designed for places with little electricity—products that have to be energy-efficient if they're going to work at all—can lead to more eco-friendly gadgets for everyone.
A universal remote control is only good if it is really, truly universal: something few companies have managed to do thus far. Unify4Life has. Its AVShadow, which launched today for $100, turns a Blackberry into a remote capable of controlling virtually every component of your home entertainment system. TiVos, Blu-Ray players, iPods and VCRs can be launched with a click. Place the minute, Bluetooth-equipped AVShadow next to your entertainment center, download the app and you're done.
Cameras are looking more and more like telescopes. This year's CES saw several megazoom models emerge, including 60X and 70X from Sony and Panasonic camcorders and a 26X still camera from Olympus. (The higher the camera's resolution, the harder it is to extend the range of a lens. The Olympus is a 12MP camera, while the standard-def camcorders are under a megapixel.)
It may at first sound like a Franken-feature. Do I really want to surf the Web on my camera? Of course not. But adding a Web browser makes Sony's new G3 far more powerful than any other Wi-Fi equipped camera.
Amidst this week's CES buzz, there’s one political question that keeps popping up on show-goers' lips: “Why should Obama have to give up his Blackberry?”
The president-elect will soon become the most tech-savvy commander-in-chief in American history, and the digital communication landscape has changed radically since Bush first entered the White House in 2000. Today, it’s almost unthinkable that any chief executive, corporate or political, should be required to use less technology than he or she did prior to taking office.
Someday soon there'll be a chicken in every pot and a centralized media center in every home. Till then, we're stuck with what we've got; some companies are rising to the challenge. Golden Signals, which debuted DisplayShare this week, is one of the more innovative: its wireless TV-computer linkup utilizes your existing gaming console and router.
Install the $50 software and your computer begins creating a realtime video of every action occurring on the desktop. By simultaneously commanding the console (currently only Playstation 3, but a version that works with the Wii and Xbox 360 is expected by summer) to stream the video on TV, DisplayShare allows you to view anything you'd see on your computer on the big screen.