Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What happened in Vegas .... my review of CES 2011.

I am back in Dubai now and the 24 hour journey home was the perfect time for me to summarise my thoughts and impressions on the CES show this year.

First of the bat, the show was packed. Heaving with people. After 2 years of business frugality, this show (for one) was back, and the consequences outside the show were very apparent. A shortage of hotel rooms, massive taxi lines and lines at tehe monorail. Packed corridors in the show making it hot and uncomfortable, and lines into every eatery and coffee shop within spitting distance of the convention center.

LG were making the most of the huge attendance this year.

I started by visiting the Central Hall. The place where all the "big brands" are. Sony, Samsung, LG etc... and I saw what was expected. The big push on 3D and tablets.

3D has certainly come a long way. The picture quality has improved from all brands. Much less flicker, better overall quality and much less tiring on the eyes.

There were ever improving designs in TV's as well, and the displays put on by these industry giants was impressive indeed.

A spectacular display of TV's by LG

Samsung's new TV's where the screen goes within millimeters of the edge.

While all the hype was around the 3D developments, in my opinion, the most up and coming "technology" was the "connected TV". Every major brand had a solution to allow your main screen in the home to get connected to the internet and home networks. In addition, Google TV seems to have made some inroads and was also present in many places. I believe that this technology has come of age and is going to seriously change the way we watch TV and consider programming.

Sony pushing internet connected TV's very hard.

There were a couple of displays of "glasses free" 3D and these gave quite impressive results. If this development continues (which it will), I can't see the current crop of 3D TV's doing too well. Surely people are going to wait for the version without glasses !

The next “big thing” that was expected to dominate the show was tablets, and we weren’t let down. There was an abundance of them, but I struggle to understand how they differentiate from each other, although Samsung made a great effort with a model that has a sliding keyboard.

open fully like a traditional laptop

folding flat, the keyboard can slide away under the screen

Most of the tablets on display were Android based, the pick of this Android bunch being the beautiful Motorola Xoom. A number of Windows tablets were also on display, and then of course there is the much awaited Blackberry Playbook. A lovely looking and well styled small tablet that does differentiate itself from the iPad benchmark. It is well set up and targeted strongly at businesses as an ideal “companion” product to a Blackberry smartphone. I was sceptical on the Playbook initially, from articles I had read, but after some "hands on" time with it, I was impressed. The integration with the Blackberry smartphones is superbly executed and this device is going to keep Blackberry in the fight against Apple and Android. A launch date of Q1 is set and a variety of cases and accessories also lined up already to accompany the launch.

The Blackberry Playbook

A display of cases already available.

Moving away from the main hall gave a chance to look at some more novel items and some interesting innovations, but not before going through a whole section of Apple support products. It is incredible to see just how many businesses have been created (and flourish) exclusively by making iPod, iPhone or iPad accessories. Cases, dockers, stands, additional batteries and chargers etc…

Just one example of a stand with a plethora of i -cases
... and thats all they do!

So for the rest of the show there was plenty on display, but much of it unremarkable. However, particular stands and moments stood out ... and here they are, in no particular order:

The excellent AR Drone in action. A "quadracopter" which is controlled by an iPod / iPad, with cameras front and bottom.

Shocking new laptop colours from Sony.

A battery powered R8.

A robot massager !

Angry Birds ... from digital to analogue !

Remote balls controlled by .... you guessed it, an iPod.

Very neat and clever docking stations for iPhones

It was an interesting show overall, but unfortunately rather predictable. No real breakthrough technologies or "wow" ideas, which left me a little disappointed and underwhelmed by the whole thing.

Nevertheless, after 3 days of walking, my feet need a rest and I do come away with some nice memories, especially from the lighter side of the show ….

Classic views of Vegas ... The Mirage volcano erupting !

CNBC Live at CES
Maria Bartiromo interviewing Sony's CEO, Howard Stringer.

Some demostrations of Microsoft's excellent Kinect controller, but people look bizarre when playing with it !

Plenty of showmanship on display - Lady GaGa ... or is it ?

Street dancing.

A totally string free guitar !

The strong arm of the Las Vegas law ....

Till next year!

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