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CES 2009: Wrapping up the Smoke and Mirrors

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me Bang! Zoom! Fireworks! Trumpets blaring! Smoke! Flashing Lights! We bring you magic and excitement but we probably aren’t going to deliver it for awhile yet. We just want you to get really excited, write about it, and maybe, just maybe the economy will turn around sometime in the next few years and we’ll be able to deliver a product, if we’re still here, and maybe you’ll be here to buy one. Gosh, we’re hoping so.

Gosh, we’re also hoping that you didn’t notice that the products that we might actually ship are the same ones we talked about last January, or that a lot of what we were actually writing orders for are products that have been around for some time now. Reference design schmeference design, come on it’s all exciting. Please don’t notice this. Please watch the smoke and watch the light dance off the mirrors. Please look at our concepts and think we’re out there pushing the envelope.

And, please, oh, please, oh, please also don’t notice that rather than innovating we’re following everyone else’s lead. You see, we want to trod the path already cleared. It is easier that way you see. We have to spend less to bring someone else’s idea to market and give you more of the same.

With a few notable exceptions that about sums up CES 2009 from my perspective. It was a down year in attendance and a down year in new stuff. But down seems to be the trend this year. Except when we are talking fleece. (bad pun you may not get until the end of this post.)

Palm captured the lion share of the attention, and from what I’ve seen and read, deservedly so. But a six month shipping timeframe? Apple’s marketing mavens could sustain that time period and even though Palm seems to have brought (bought?) some Apple folk along for the Pre ride, can they create the same kind of build up and maintain it? I’m not sure. Can both Palm and Sprint hang on that long?

Dell tried to get all exclusive and such with the Adamo, but they might as well have brought along a cardboard cut out for all the real information they let out on the next device that is supposed to change our lives and make us love Dell again. Tablet PC folk know Dell can create delicious hype and then spoil it big time. Will the Adamo suffer the same fate and be just a shiny Netbook in the end, or will it be a genuine MacBook Air killer. No one knows, because Dell wasn’t talking. Heck they weren’t even booting the device up.

Oh, and those Mobile Internet Devices. (MIDs). Let’s see with a few exceptions (Aigo) that were actually working and shipping devices before the show, (and by the way are now very, very outdated) these were the same mockups we showed you last year, just under a different glass display.

Tablet PCs? Notebooks? Laptops? You’ll have to settle for last year’s models. With a few exceptions (Lenovo’s W700DS with a dual display being one) everyone is waiting for Windows 7. No one is going to get caught in that ““Capable” and ““Ready” trap again. You want multi-touch devices? With the exception of HP, you’ll need to wait around a bit. Because you see we either can’t decide to go with N-Trig, which we know is not quite good enough, or to see if Wacom will come out of its shell and actually deliver a capacitive digitizer. No wonder the Best of Innovations Awards booth didn’t have any notebooks or laptops recognized.

Oh, and Netbooks. We decided to let everyone in on that game after Asus stole the show last year. If you didn’t have a Netbook at this year’s CES you couldn’t have a booth. Yeah, yeah, we know that we the exception of the keyboards they are all the same, but hey, it makes it easier for Coby (and others) to rebrand them.

As for smart phones, besides Palm’s announcement it was a dead market. Nothing new on the phone from about Android. Nokia seems to be content to leave the USA to the colonials, and Windows Mobile is so lost that rumors are beginning to circulate (heard it from three different sources) that it is on the way out in favor of some sort of Zune OS or mixed with something from Danger or something like that. They’ll probably call it Live and that will kill it dead.

If it sounds like I’m really down or really depressed, I’m not. I’m just frustrated that some folks felt the need to pull out the smoke and mirrors instead of calling a spade a spade and saying we’ve got nothing right now. There were indeed a few winners out there although nothing that will change the world.

Livescribe’s Plus Smart Pen is going to be a winner. I named it my Gadget of the Show.

PogoPlug will be a winner as an accessory.

The Sony VAIO P500 will catch a lot of attention and end up being called a Netbook no matter what Sony says. I’m not a fan of the device, but I can see its appeal even at too high prices.

Asus is proving to be a winner and looks like a long term contender. The sheer size of their booth and the range of products they had available compared to 3 years ago is astounding. And all because of the letter ‘E’. (Although they did announce the T91 Netbook Tablet but only had a locked down demo running on it. Silly.)

The GiiNii MovIT may be just a WiFi (no 3G) mobile picture frame, but it is running Android. Is Android the wave of the future for small mobile devices? Or will it be ARM? Do end users really care?

Oh, and the best Geek at CES 2009? Without question that title goes to Xavier Lanier at Notebooks.com. Everyone else eats his dust. I got to get me one of those Scott eVest fleeces.

Warner Crocker is a professional theatre director, producer and playwright and also a Tablet PC enthusiast. He is also a Microsoft MVP for Tablet PCs. Send email to Warner. You can follow him on Twitter or Google+

4 Comments

  1. Sumocat

    01/14/2009 at 10:03 am

    Can’t really fault Wacom for playing things conservatively with capacitive touch. They took a hit when Windows Vista failed to take off. Hard to push people to take advantage of the tablet features in Vista when people aren’t upgrading to Vista.

  2. JC

    01/14/2009 at 12:07 pm

    Scott eVest outerwear is well worth the money, especially if you find yourself carrying all sorts of assorted stuff. I own an shell and a fleece. They’re last year’s model, so they zip together into one jacket, if need be. All the pockets has made carrying stuff around so much more convenient. Also, since the stuff is distributed over your body, you really don’t feel the weight at all.

  3. HereAndNow

    01/14/2009 at 6:03 pm

    I thought Touch Revolution’s NIMBLe looked interesting.

    http://www.engadget.com/2009/01/08/nimble-is-mc-hammer-approved-brings-android-to-even-the-most-bo/

    Perhaps we’ll be seeing some Android-based appliances, in our homes, in the near future.

  4. Sara

    01/16/2009 at 6:54 pm

    It isn’t just about Vista. Linux supports touch, and once Wacom implements capacitative touch, I’m replacing my Motion’s screen with the new touch digitizer (as my Motion tablet runs Linux–beautifully). I think it’s only a matter of time. It’s silly that all of the OEMs are waiting for Windows 7, and not taking advantage of the existing market.

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