Thursday, January 7, 2010

Eye On Las Vegas - The Consumer Electronics Show

Yes, it's finally here, as it is every January.

Las Vegas' biggest extravaganza, The Consumer Electronics
Show, kicked off today and will go on through Sunday.

And this year it's bigger and better than ever - two thousand
exhibitors spread out over all three of Las Vegas's biggest
Convention Centers, and over two hundred thousand
industry insiders getting a firsthand look and comparing
notes on what will soon be coming to "An Electronics
Store Near You".

Now, if you've heard about this show and you're thinking
about coming up to Vegas to get a look, let me give you
some advice - don't.

This trade show is rigorously "insiders only" - and media
and visitor passes to this event are harder to come by
(and more eagerly sought after), than Super Bowl tickets.

And that means your technologically-challenged
correspondent was, like most of us, on the outside looking
in. But, like any good Vegas guy, I've got a card up my

In my case, it's The Las Vegas Insider - a Thinking
Nationalist reader who in real life is a PR maven for one
of Las Vegas' largest Casino operators. And, as part of his
job, he gets a few of these priceless ducats to the show,
and he attends himself.

So, earlier this evening, I met him for cocktails on the
Strip and got his take on some of the hot new electronic
items you'll be shopping for later this year.

Here are his top picks:

1) High-Definition flat-panel 3-D TV, and the first
true HD flat-panel computer monitors;

2) 3-D projection TV. If you've ever watched a sporting
event on TV, you haven't seen anything until you've
seen the game projected onto a tabletop with realistic 3-D
avatars of the players, along with the regular play-by-play
network broadcast . It will almost be better than being

3) Fourth and Fifth-generation Smartphones, of which
Google's Android is only the beginning. Almost all of the
applications now available only for Apple's iPhone will
be available for these also. Plus, Yahoo, Google, and
many others are creating thousands of additional
applications for these devices that are truly amazing.
By this time next year, you'll be able to start your car,
open the garage door, and order your coffee from
Starbucks (among many other things), just by hitting
a few buttons on your phone's touch screen;

4) Mobile text-to-speech and speech-to-text for your car,
eliminating "texting while driving";

5) Ford's new "Mobile Wi-Fi". If you buy any late-2010
or 2011 model year Ford, whether it's a Focus or a top-of-
the-line Lincoln Navigator, your days of searching for
a Wi-Fi hot spot for your laptop are over. Simply engage
wi-fi from your car's touch screen, plug the USB adapter
into the car's port, and you've got wireless internet up
to 100 yards away from your parked car. No more
crowding the tables at Starbucks or Borders;

6) A whole new generation of e-book readers. If you
have an Amazon Kindle or a Borders Nook, you have
bought e-reader 1.0 technology. The new readers
have larger screens, full color rather than grayscale,
and can also read newspapers and magazines as well
as books (in fact, says my friend, in his opinion that
will be their biggest use). While the new e-reader
companies (Liquid Plastic, enTourage, as well as CE
giants Samsung, Toshiba and LG) do not yet have
the content libraries of market leader Amazon (who is NOT
exhibiting), that will change as content providers,
who have never been exclusive, rush to take advantage
of the latest and greatest . Prediction here: to
compete, Amazon, the market leader, will make
Kindle an application for these readers, as well as for
compatible laptops, netbooks, and other devices.

All well and good, you might say. But, to be a completely
modern e-citizen, I've got to carry a backpack full of
devices - a smartphone, a laptop, an e-reader, maybe even
a fourth generation digital assistant just to make sense of it
all. Couldn't all of these functions, which are just applications,
be combined into one lightweight, powerful, user-friendly,
wireless, internet-enabled device?

Well, your wish has been granted. Enter the slate ,
or second-generation tablet computer.

About the size of a 17" flat-panel monitor and thinner
than a smartphone, these revolutionary devices combine
a fully-functional wi-fi or wireless mobile PC,
a book and magazine reader, TV over wireless
broadband (with 150 channels including ESPN,
HBO, and all the others) Sirius/XM satellite
radio, bluetooth links to your smartphone, and
a port for your iPod or MP3 player as well. If
you're more comfortable with the layout of
a traditional PC or laptop, there are dozens
of wireless keyboards, mice and "docking stations"
to go with them. Of the major manufacturers, HP and
Dell exhibited their offerings at the show, with
shipments to begin later this year.

But the biggest news of the show is what wasn't there,
a device which is rumored to be as revolutionary
as the original PC itself. And that is Apple's iSlate,
which will have all the above capabilities plus
additional content, applications and capabilities
available nowhere else. And, like all Apple products,
it will work seamlessly with your present iPhone,
iPod, or Macbook, sharing data and applications.
It is rumored to be such a game-changer that
Steve Jobs himself decided not to take it to
CES but rather to have his own expo
devoted to iSlate and the 3rd-generation iPhone
later this year.

And all of this is good. It is a re-affirmation of
faith in what this country can do, in just one
area of technology. While it is true that most of
the manufacturing takes place in China, Japan,
Taiwan and Korea, much of the technology and almost
all of the content and applications come from the

So much for this country being "past its prime"

And what will they think of next?

According to my friend, the word in the Consumer
Electonics industry is that if you thought this year
was remarkable, just wait until next year.

I can hardly wait.

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