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CES Roundup, Day 2

Wed Jan 10, 2007 - 3:46 PM EST - By Dieter Bohn, Marcus Adolfsson, Chris Kingree


Well, obviously the news of the day yesterday was iPhone. By comparison, everything I saw at CES seemed to be covered in a fine-layer of "Not-Apple Dust" - coming down off of the Reality Distortion Field is always a letdown.

But chin up, dear reader. I ran into these two guys on the street outside the convention center. If they don't make you smile (and an ironic "Why would they do that?" kind of smile counts), then you're just not in the CES spirit. The CES spirit is just like the Christmas spirit - everybody sees a bunch of stuff they want to buy, then gets a tiny fraction of that stuff -- if they're lucky. Then everybody eats a big meal and pretends they want to party but really they just want to nap.


But I digress. Let us move on to some neat little gadgets. Believe it or not, CES was the first time I saw the PS3 in action. It was easily the biggest draw at Sony's booth - which was massive. I also got some time with Sony's e-Reader, which isn't new by any stretch but which I love for reasons I can't fully explain.

Rounding out my time at the Sony booth were some poorly labeled (and even more poorly explained by the reps) bluetooth audio devices. What we have here is the HWS-BTA2W, which is actually a clever little device once you get to know it. It can act as a bluetooth audio receiver to send audio from your A2DP-enabled phone to your stereo AND as a bluetooth audio transmitter to send your stereo's music to a pair of bluetooth headphones. Too bad it's not portable, but it's pretty neat.

We also checked out a few non-Treo phones, for the heck of it. If you can't tell from the photo on the top right, that's a giant rotating Cingular Blackjack at the Samsung booth pictured left. I think I saw 3 of these giant rotating Blackjack. Theoretically, the batteries on these super-sized Blackjacks last more than 2 hours.

On the left I'm also throwing in a photo of Casio's ultra-rugged G'zOne Type-V Verizon phone for a few reasons: 1) To make fun of their name for it (Guh-Zone? Gee Zee One?), 2) To point out that it passes Military Standard test MIL-STD-810F, and finally 3) they had a giant mechanical bull at their booth that caused me to wander over there in the first place. Hey, it's CES.

We'll make the gadget section of today's roundup short, though. So here's one last - the TomTom Go for your car. It's pretty much identical to the TomTom Navigator 6 software you can get for your Treo, except in a tiny little box you can set on your dash. It also acts as a bluetooth speakerphone for your car too, which I thought was a really smart feature. Anyway, I love TomTom's software and so will be probably be recommending this little box to my feature-phone-using friends.

Palm's Dinner

Palm kindly hosted a dinner for a group of bloggers and writers last night - it was a great time. We got some real face-to-face time with product managers and the marketing team from Palm. It was really nice to be able to listen to the folks who actually design and sell the Treo talk about, well, the issues surrounding designing and selling Treos.

I'll admit I didn't take notes (it was a casual dinner), but some highlights:

  • Palm tests and tests (and tests bluetooth) headsets and car kits for compatibility. They even once drove an Audi TT convertible into their lobby for a few days to better test it and fix bugs where possible.
  • I can't say this for sure, but I got the impression that Palm's reaction to the iPhone was pretty much like mine: Impressed with just how ambitious it was, but not really sure that even Apple can pull it off.
  • Good Messenger on the PalmOS doesn't allow you to beam calendar entries. It used to not allow you to beam contact entries, even your own business card!
  • The (mostly) plastic stylus on the 680 and 750 - it's not about weight, it's about RF interference with the antenna. Apparently the biggest design contstraint with a phone once you've decided on the feature set (and therefore decided on a battery size) is actually antenna design. It's a "black art", the product managers all agreed, and all sorts of subtle things from paint color to a metal stylus (or speaker grille on the back of the Treo, for that matter), can throw it off.
  • Literally every time somebody at the table brought up some little niggling user interface issue or bug, we watched the Palm employees heads nod and their faces smile knowingly. And there's usually surprising explanations behind them. Here's a long example:

That 750v's "end" button takes you to the Today screen first, then requires a second tap to turn off the screen. Every other Treo just lets you hit that red button to turn off the screen. So what? Well, I like the way that the other Treos do it because it means that when you turn the phone back on, the screen is still where you left it (so to speak). Andy Clipsham, the product manager for the Treo 750, calls this "wake to state" and says that they had wanted to maintain it on the 750v. But Vodafone said no - that basically every phone their customers have ever used has that "end" button take them back to the home screen, so do it that way.

Clipsham gave me a tip, though - if you hold down option and hit the end key, that turns on your keyguard. Basically, turning on your keyguard on a WM Treo is the equivalent to turning off the screen. Sure enough, there's my "wake to state" back-- if I want it badly enough to remember that little trick.

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