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CES 2008: Warner’s Impressions-Trade Show On The Make



MeApologies to Nelson Algren for morphing the title.

For what it is worth here are some of my thoughts and impressions on CES 2008. Insane. Fun. Exhilarating. Enlightening. Frustrating. Confusion. Stupid. Big Gambles. In the end not as much substance as I would have liked to see. That’s how I’d quickly characterize this year’s CES 2008 from my perspective. Here are some extensions on those thoughts.


The definition of insanity is pursuing the same path hoping for a different result. Lots of that happens at CES no matter your perspective. Everyone is hoping their product catches everyone’s imagination, every writer/podcaster/video blogger hopes they find it first. This year’s CES was largely a rehash of things we already knew about, technologies that we already are working with, and dressing those things up as something new and exciting. When there was something new (MIDs) we got to see prototypes of promises yet to come. When you do get a chance to talk with someone about something that is exciting and still to come, it is so far off that you can’t talk about it. With all of that insanity would I do it again? You bet. Call me insane.

Fun, Exhilarating, and Enlightening.

Las_vegas_stratosphereIt is a gas to be in the mix and swirl of the whole thing. At times it is like being in a giant snowglobe that is continually being shaken. The camaraderie is well worth the trip, as is the shared conversation. Comparing notes on what you’re doing, and with what technology, is both comforting and inspiring. This year we spent a good deal of time at the Seagate and PodTech sponsored BlogHaus where Robert Scoble holds court. Anytime you can have oysters on the half shell, beer, and blogging, you’re in heaven. We got to meet and hang out with quite a few compatriots in the tech blogging game (David Speiser, the gang from GearLive, Thoughtfix, Jeff Sandquist, Ian Dixon, Steve Hughes, along with many others) and a few luminaries to boot (Scoble, John Furrier, Marc Canter, Doc Searls.) Watching Matt Faulkner and Jason Calacanis share pictures of English bulldogs was a hoot. Sharing gadgets and accessories (anyone have a tripod I can borrow? An SD card reader? A USB to mini-USB adapter?) We had some fun running our online chat on Wednesday and really enjoyed the razing and support from GBM readers while doing that. Some more highlights of the fun:

  • A great dinner with Techsmith’s Betsy Weber and her husband, Kathy Jacobs, Ken Calandra of Bishop Hartley, Saleem Kahn, and Rob.
  • The Tablet PC/UMPC Meetup. Wow. What a party, what a boiling caldron of passion about a technology. Bottle that passion and enthusiasm and you’ll have something. Kudos to all who made it happen and who made it there. The highest of the highlights of the entire trip. The Tablet PC/UMPC community rocks.
  • Post Tablet PC/UMPC meetup Matt, Rob, Sierra, and I shared some quiet time with James Kendrick and Kevin Tofel of jkOnTheRun. Another cherished highlight.
  • Chris Aarons of BuzzTech set up a blogger appreciation dinner sponsored by HP and Symantec. Great time.
  • Kevin Tofel and I doing a taping for an upcoming Podtech show on mobile computing. Fun, and I hope we see it soon.


In the Tablet PC/UMPC space there wasn’t much new to see. But there were some winners here.

  • The highlight? Toshiba’s M700 Tablet PC. If you’re a power Tablet PC user this is the Tablet PC to have right now. Period. End of statement. (see the video here.)
  • HP’s TX2000 is going to do well and deserves to. Nice machine. (see the video here.)
  • MIDs. We came to see MIDs. We saw prototypes. They do look sexy. They do look like what UMPCs should have been when they were first released. They offer a lot of promise. Call me in six months when they get released. (see the video here.)
  • The HTC Shift. So much promise. So much shifting on release dates and what to call it. Yes it was there and now it isn’t a UMPC. Still not released here yet. I loved getting my hands on this device for the first time. Wish it was here now. (see the video here.)
  • Beyond getting to go hands on with Microsoft Surface, Microsoft had nothing really exciting to show. (see the video here.)
  • When there was a new device to see (i.e The Asus R50A UMPC) you can’t really get a sense of what the device is because it is either a prototype or has been so mishandled by showgoers, it is a mess. By the way, this UMPC is really intriguing looking but all the Vegas style light up buttons gives the impression that it is a toy and not a business class device as described by Intel.


I’ve already written some on this as have others. Everything is going to be called an Ultra-Mobile PC in the time ahead. Consumer confusion will happen. Unless someone spends some real bucks on marketing and explaining what makes their product different the whole mobile space will be a muddled mess. If I had to make a bet today, I’d say there is going to be the iPhone and then everything else.


Dell. I don’t buy that the company line that CES is a consumer show and so we aren’t showing our new award winning Enterprise Tablet PC for the consumer market. Short sighted and cutting your own nose off with a table saw. Like that goofy shirt was aimed at the pinstripe crowd. Give me a break.

Big Gambles.

The talk of the show ran on two tracks. WiMax and Media. The two are inextricably tied together.

  • WiMax is a Vegas-sized bet on a technology yet to come. Well it succeed? That question is loaded on so many levels. I know it is a different way of providing connectivity than what we have now, but I’m skeptical.
  • Media here, media now, media everywhere, media anytime. (Side note: does anyone create anything for anyone to get work done with anymore?) The technology is racing ahead. The politics and legal crap behind it are playing catchup and so are the deep pockets behind the studios and media conglomerates. There’s a collision coming on these fronts and no one knows how it is going to end up.
  • Most of the advances we see today are focused on delivering media (and better quality media at that) via some sort of broadband anytime we want it. For the life of me I can’t see a broadband pipe out there that can really make this happen on any real scale. I hope my skepticism will be proved wrong on this.
  • Beyond the big CES topics, in our Tablet PC/UMPC space the talk and the promise is capactive touch. Another call me when it happens technology. Oh, wait, there’s that iPhone thing again. Hmmm?


You don’t get much substance when you go to the circus and that’s what CES is. But we do hope we come out with something that will help us help our readers understand the new ideas and technologies that will be coming down the road. My big hope was for some substance about MIDs. I didn’t really get it in several good conversations. Talking points, yes. Substance, no.

The mobile device most talked about at the show: Asus Eee PC. Those who have it, love it. Those who don’t are really intrigued.

More later as it comes.


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