CES Signals Optimism for Change in 2010

Jessica Sanders "make.believe" commercial was shown all over CES
Jessica Sanders "make.believe" commercial was shown all over CES

The new year began well enough, with a trip to Las Vegas to work for both clients and our own technology interests at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It was a nice change from recent shows, with lots of positive energy, not to mention a wealth of new and exciting technology. In a time when people are out of work, tempers are on edge, and people are distrustful of almost everything, it was really nice to speak to so many upbeat people, see so many fun, new products, and in general, to start the year off on a great note.

From a techie perspective, there was a lot to like. Let’s touch on a few of the more memorable things. Sharp’s QuadPixel technology was really terrific to see. Bright and even perhaps overly colorful, there are a ton of possible applications. The LG OLED television was similar in terms of being both impressive and perhaps too colorful. Images tended to look like they were painted on the screen. Nobody every looked that bright in real life – but it looks cool!

On the phone front, the appearance of the Android operating system (based on Linux) in phones from Motorola (like the Backflip) and others was really great to see. On the other side of the coin, I would say that Palm is dead, but perhaps still staggering along. It’s odd that so many former Apple execs are at Palm, and the company is to totally out of the mix moving forward. Oh, well!

There were “tablet” computers everywhere, from HP, Lenova, ICD, Dell and others. Essentially, they’re all laptops without the folding case. With a touch screen and fast display refresh, some are interesting to see, but I think the thing that’s missing is that each of these new boxes seem to be focused on the hardware specs, rather than the user experience. It will be interesting to see what Apple comes up with later in the month, when they are expected to introduce a similar type of device.

Lots of manufacturers were showing off 3D television. Panasonic had a 152-inch (yup!) plasma 3D television. It was a movie theater screen – but sharper. I don’t know how any of us feel about 3D, as you need two eyes for it to work and everyone must wear those silly glasses.

On a related note, Panasonic was showing off a prototype of a prosumer 3D HD video camera, and that was freakin’ awesome. If 3D is gonna be a big hit, producing shows must be simple and straight-forward.

There was lame stuff too…

Intel was showing off a medical monitoring system that permits patients to be linked to their physician via a secure link. The doc sees his patients daily health stats in a sort of triage view (red, yellow, green). It isn’t web enables, is expensive, and is just, well… so 1995. The concept is awesome and powerful, but isn’t not what the world is doing now… Docs want to see this type of data on their mobile device, and they want to be able to click and point and adjust appointments, meds, etc. Relying on a dedicated piece of hardware and software is… well, I already said it.

The folks at Visteon are still in business, but their technology is two years old – they showed off the same stuff we collaborated with them on more than a year ago. No doubt they have new things in the pipeline, but it wasn’t obvious at the CES. We wish them all well, however!

The BING section of the Microsoft booth was nearly always empty. The BING exterior display and transport stage was always empty.

If you haven’t been to one of these shows before, they’re beyond what anyone can take in during a single visit or even over four days. There are the main show floors, where you can take in Microsoft, Intel, Panasonic, Sony, etc. Adjacent to the main floorspace, there is an auto pavilion, which was also filled with iPhone and related solutions – including a projector for your iPhone. Actually, we saw three examples of the iPhone projection hype, and they all suck. Keep pushing though, as the idea is a good one (unless the new Apple iSlate or whatever is better).

At the Venetian Hotel, the top floors are jammed with audio manufacturers. Each one rents a suite and inside, they show off their speakers, mono amplifiers, DVD players and even, um… turntables. That’s right – vinyl is back. It sounds great, but the turntables cost what a laptop does – a good one! So, walking these floors is kind of odd – lots of geeks and people who like to sit alone in their “audio rooms” and so on. We did get to check out lots of hot audio, however.

For us, the coolest thing we saw at the show was in the Sony booth. First, they offered a glimpse at the consumer version of their new AVCHD HD video camera. It rocks the planet. Our team will certainly use the the new professional version. Just going through the paces with the prototype was worth the trip.

The second thing we saw that we loved was a Sony feature on its new marketing endeavor. Called make.believe, it features a series of creative film directors, including my half-sister, Jessica Sanders. Her commercial spot is really fantastic and was a huge hit at the show.

There was other stuff that made Vegas fun…

First of all, if you haven’t been to the new City Center, stop everything and check it out. It’s freakin’ amazing. There are so many interesting angles, fresh oranges in the walkways, amazing shops, and a really fun atmosphere. It’s crazy, just like everything in Vegas, but it is really worth a look.

City Center is the most expensive private real estate venture in the U.S.A.
City Center is the most expensive private real estate venture in the U.S.A.

And not only is City Center cool, the new Aria Hotel and Casino is just about the coolest hotel (except for the Four Seasons!) you’ll find anywhere in a big city. It’s totally hip, has a great waterfall, water “fireworks” and the best restaurants anywhere in town. When there, you must try out Julian Serrano, one of the most remarkable places to enjoy some wine, good friends (thanks Ronnie V and Melissa) and great food.  In addition to the Aria, the new vDara Hotel is also pretty cool.

The folks at Kinoma are doing well, and it was a blast to share a great dinner with Mitchell Weinstock, an old and dear friend who runs BizDev for the Kinoma clan.

The Golden Nuggett opened their new Rush Tower and it’s fantastic – really nice. If you’re headed to Vegas for any reason, it’s worth checking out.

So, the year started out well in Vegas. There is new techie stuff coming, and people seem to be eager for optimism. It will take some real energy, including new jobs to make a difference, but the spirit was good! Here’s to a great 2010. Be good to your friends and family.

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