Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas - CES 2010 postmortem

I m kind of disappointed by this year's ces compared to last year's. During last year's CES, LED TVs were new and they were kind of like becoming the new LCDs. 3D technology were coming to the home  in the form of 3D TVs. This year I went to CES in hopes to see more tablets, the new halo market created by the buzz of apple tablet, which is slated to release in the end of January. To my disappointment, I did not see too many tablets, which I thought would replace the current netbooks.  

At CES 2010, the main attractions were 3D TVs (like last year), Ereaders/ebooks (I m yet to see a clear distinction between the two), netbooks, iPhone accesories (this was by far one of the most innovative areas), wireless charging technologies (like last year).

Apple was all over the place at CES. Infact apple Inc. did not even have a booth at CES (apple stopped coming to CES long time ago, since they started their own macworld to release their products. Probably CES was too inexpensive for the release their products). There was a big area called ilounge at the LVCC north hall where almost every exhibit was an iPhone accessory. Among iPhone accesories, there were iPhone covers with solar charging pads at the back of the cover, USB battery packs, iPhone covers with embedded battery packs, wireless charging stations, kinetic chargers, acoustic headphones, to name a few. Most of these were present at last CES too but the number of companies investing in selling iPhone accesories truly amazed me. 

There was a section with mobile apps exhibits but none of the apps impressed me. Every app in this section had some form of hyperlocal thing in them. Most of them were iPhone apps with a few apps for blackberry and very few supporting android platform as well. CES even had a apps for innovation contest for mobile apps. One mobile app worth mentioning is this YourApps / premierappshop (www.premierappshop.com). This one seems to be an alternative app store for apple iPhone & doesn't need apps to go through apple's app approval process. From what I understand I think it uses the bookmark feature of the iPhone's safari browser.  

Among netbooks, the most innovative ones, worth mentioning are a keyboard-less netbook design by MSI with dual screens with the second screen acting also as a virtual keyboard and the hybrid tablet laptop (where the tablet can be detached if needed) by Lenovo. 

There were ereaders all over the place at this year's CES (I wouldn't call them an innovation because ereaders are not something new, they are just now becoming a commodity). Every ereader was the same and the only difference between the kindle and the ereaders at ces is that the non-kindle ones can read more ebook formats. To me that's not an innovation. Marvel technologies had this ereader with dual screen, one powered by TfT and another one by eink, so that one could use the ereader as a ebook and a netbook. The main advantage that kindle has over these ereaders is the price point of kindle.

There were quite a few companies demonstrating wireless charging power stations. I think most or all of these use electromagnetic induction way of power transfer for charging. On the mobile accesories side, there were companies retailing wireless charging pads for iPhones and blackberries. These charging pads are priced around $100. Futon Innovation stole the pride by showcasing wireless power charging proof of concept at office, homes and even inside cars. One thing all these wireless charging technologies require is to place the device to be charged in very close proximity to the charging source (by this I mean you have literally place the device on a charging surface). The only advantage of these present day wireless charging technologies is that they replace the power cables. Today, to transfer data, we dont require cables anyway. Maybe these technologies are good for office environment, but not for regular consumer use. Someday in the near future, I hope to see a way of charging my iPhone from my hand through an app. I guess I m asking for too much.

There's nothing much to write about TV technologies, except that every manufacture on the floor has a 3D TV now. Too bad these still require glasses. Even content providers are planning launch 3D content sometime this year. Direct TV is leading the herd. Yes, we can watch ESPN on 3D soon. There's an estimate of around 50 3D movies to be made this year.

On the handheld side, every phone manufacture (nokia, RIMM, samgsung,motorola) have new additions. To me, every handheld looked like nothing but an iPhone clone. Being an apple evangelist, I might be a bit biased in my opinion, so I m not going to comment on the handhelds, except that each of these handheld had their own app store. I m thinking whether having an app store per handheld is the right business model or whether the app stores should be carrier specific, but I guess that's not question that's going to be answered in the near future.

Last but not least, intel demonstrated that every device is going to be powered by a computer in the future. I think it's not too ambitious. Intel's recent core i5 and i7 processors on 32 nanometer technology is brilliant. On the mobile front, intel has a new app store called the AppUp center to enable people write apps for netbooks.      

More details about CES products with pictures and videos to follow in a followup blog post.

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