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CES. Press Day
Las Vegas never stops to amaze me. The ridiculous pricing, the pretentious interiors, the number of Cartier boutiques per square mile – the good, the bad, the ugly are all there. This time the city managed to surprise me right from the airport – once I got out of the cattle car (I do not want to insult buses here) with Spirit Airlines advertising on it and got to the taxi stand, there was not a single (!) person in the taxi line. I come to Vegas for many years a few times a year and never ever did I see anything like it. Surprises continued when the internet in my room was complimentary. It has been a long time since the “C” word was spoken in this town, for the last 10 years or so it was pretty much forbidden. Clearly, the economy has a positive effect on the Sin City at least as far as visitors are concerned.
The first day of the show was dedicated to the press. Which means, hundreds of reporters, bloggers, editors, cameramen, etc. are running around the Venetian and Las Vegas Convention Center, trying to get to the 45 minutes press conferences by some of the major consumer electronics players. The lines to get into the ballrooms, where events are taking place, are measured in hundreds of feet and people. Thank God, once the doors open the lines are moving fast, but once you get in just try to find a sit.
So what were all these distinguished press members lining up to listen to? I’ll try to run a short summery of what is coming this year to a Best Buy near you, so not to waste valuable time you can otherwise waste watching television. And television is where we will start.
TVs are going into two major directions in 2010. First of all, your new TV may become (that is if you care or can afford it) a communication/entertainment hub of your house. TVs will connect to WiFi, serve as browsers, deliver content directly to your living room from Netflix, allow you to look at your pictures at Picasa, watch YouTube and talk on Skype.
LG press conference was first and boy, it was smooth. Presidents and Chairmen took the podium in a never ending rotation. The words “Innovative”, “Breakthrough”, “New” filled the air. Oh, and of course “Excitement” (every manufacturer every year is so excited but its innovative products, it is downright scary).
LG started with a big bang, having a call placed on TV over Skype to M. Brenes, one of the Skype top managers. It was impressive, I have to say. Overall two thirds of LG TVs this year be at least Wireless ready. Then I got to Toshiba press conference and heard a very similar story. Then Samsung. Finally Panasonic. All of them were feeding us the same things wrapped into different color wrappers. Panasonic one upped LG, not by calling somebody in Skype via Skype, but getting Skype CEO Josh Silverman in person. Toshiba avoided using the name Skype, sticking to just a generic VoIP, but we all know what is the most popular VoIP service in the world. Properly connected, TV will allow us to enjoy a lot without leaving that La-Z-Boy alone for long. No, no remote beer dispenser yet, if you wonder. This breakthrough industry leading exciting innovation is still ahead.
Another largest trend of 2010 is 3D. Yes, 3D is coming home in a big way. LG, Samsung, Panasonic are releasing 3D TVs, projectors, Blu-Ray Players, etc. and to make things more interesting, Panasonic signed a deal with Direct TV, which will be launching three 3D channels by July of this year. It looks however that it is Toshiba who just may beat everybody else in this game. Unlike the competition, Toshiba Cell TV technology allows to take a standard 2D broadcast and make it 3D WITHOUT MAKING US WEAR THE STUPID GLASSES. Now THIS is a breakthrough and when I listened to Samsung and Panasonic afterwards, with all due respect to these great, great companies, it is a huge difference and a deal breaker for many, many people. That is if Toshiba technology works as advertised, of course.
Panasonic also introduced a 3D professional camera that looks somewhat like WALL-E. To pull more support, they invited Jon Landau, Avatar producer to push for them. Avatar was shot on Panasonic cameras and now, with 1Bln dollars made in 17 days, it is a major market proof that consumers do want 3D. Not to be beat, Samsung invited SKG’ Jeffrey Kaltzenberg to put the 3D glasses on and praise the cooperation with the manufacturer in releasing DreamWorks’ Monsters vs. Aliens on 3D Blu-Ray.
In addition, the question we are asking the sales guy now “Is this TV 120 Hertz?” is so outdated, it is not funny. The newest rage is 480 Hertz.
As for the race to the thinnest TV, LG and Samsung are fighting it out. As of this day, LG is winning – the company demonstrated 6.9mm (0.27”) TV. Samsung managed only 0.3” (7.62mm). If Samsung was a Japanese company its engineers and managers would probably do a collective seppuku tonight, but I don’t know if there is anything like this in Korean tradition.
A single largest announcement today for me and things mobile was Samsung announcement that it is entering the eBook market with a 6” and 10” models. As Eldar wrote before, the eBook market is not as much about electronics as it is about content, this is why Amazon’s Kindle kicks Sony’s behind in sales even being ugly. Barnes & Noble has its eBook now, so Samsung turned to probably one of the very few remaining sources of content out there – Google. Google’s Director of Global Communications and Public Affairs (DGCaPA?) Gabriel Stricker, who looks a little like a skinny version of me and I look like somebody who’d rather rob a 7-11 than talk about books, was beaming with excitement (that word again!). This marriage should really boost either company’s standing in increasingly competitive eBook battleground. In addition, Samsung eBooks feature electronic paper you can write and draw upon, not only read.
Now about the phones. Not much to say…LG showed Expo already sold by AT&T, running Windows Mobile 6.5 and featuring an optional projector. This is the first phone running on Snapdragon and if it was not running WM 6.5 OS it may have been interesting. They also showed Android based GW620 on one of the slides without naming it, just said it will be released by one of the Canadian carriers.
Samsung, who is now officially #1 manufacturer on North American markets with 25.4% share, showed a few known devices as well, accenting the fact that it is sold by all four American national carriers. The company also announced mobile TV on a single chip handset for Sprint, but so far MDTV attempts failed in this country.
Samsung Apps, world’s first mutli-device app store, was announced as well. The company will try to make it a single destination for all the applications for phones, TVs, MP3 players, washers, dryers, SD cards, chips, processors, computer monitors and irons Samsung is making, so should you want to install a widget into your refrigerator you will not need to search for it far and wide. Open platform will allow 3rd party developers to create their content for the store.
LG also showed an interesting netbook PC – X120 has enough juice to run Windows 7, boots in 7 seconds and has onboard 3G and GPS.
Finally, Casio showed 3 new compact digital cameras featuring high speed capability and up to 10X optical zoom. In addition to them, the company demonstrated a new approach to digital picture frames. Now, if you bought a Casio frame you can take your photo and make it look like an “oil painting”. Or an aquarelle. Or a pencil painting, up to 8 different modes. You can also add a moving image to the picture. The company demonstrated a picture of a waterfall, turned into oil painting, then moving water was added from another video and to top it all up a surfer was riding the fall (they call it Dynamic Photo). If I was 8 I’d find it amusing, but I’m 13 now, so I was amazed how something this childish and frankly badly looking can generate so much excitement in grown men behind this “breakthrough”. I have no doubt there the will be takers who will play with it a couple of times, but one really has to have nothing to do at all to keep on playing with this thing. I did however like the Flash add-on to the frame, allowing you to customize it by adding calendars, clocks, etc. – that did look interesting and like something that may have a real life demand.
On that note I’ll be retiring to start stomping the CES grounds first thing in the morning FYI needs.
Published 07 January 2010
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