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CES Favorites

Wed Jan 17, 2007 - 7:51 AM EST - By Tim Hillebrand


It was a hectic week at CES with teaming hordes from all over the planet surging through the exhibit halls like lemmings without GPS. In case you�ve never attended, this amazing event just about takes over the entire town occupying every square inch of the giant convention center and all of its North, Central, and South halls with major players such as Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, and more, all strutting their stuff, some with monster exhibits and stage shows, viewing booths, and private meeting rooms.

The North Hall is more or less devoted to automotive technology featuring highly customized vehicles completely filled with speaker systems, GPS, and video screens. I swear, some of those cars could propel themselves with the sound blasting out of them�a possible solution to the energy crisis, but I don�t know how we would contend with the noise pollution. I still have a headache from the penetrating sounds pervading that venue.

Moving farther north, next door, the entire Hilton Convention Center is consumed by small booths in blocks organized by countries, mostly Asian. Frankly, I found this area a little tedious. All the exhibitors are hopeful that a WalMart or some other big box buyer will stop by and place an order for a million or so units. The endless offerings of MP3 players, headsets and headphones, cables, HDTV screens, and GPS units begin to blur into a numbing sameness.

However, occasionally something new jumps out and grabs you. For instance, WaaWoo offered one of my favorites last year, the WOW MousePen, a new item that blew me away. It�s my first CES Favorite.

First CES Favorite: Digital Pen

What if I told you that this digital pen would allow you to write or draw on any surface and that all your strokes were recorded digitally? The recorder is a USB memory stick that does not have to be connected to a computer to record. When you slip it into a USB port, your scribblings will appear on the monitor. You can even convert your writing to text. You can also use the flash memory stick to store any kind of data. This device is slick, compact, and mind bogglingly adaptable to an endless variety of applications. The suggested retail price will be about $100. Be on the lookout for this beauty when it hits the retail market. Meanwhile, just imagine how you might use such an ingenious device.

At the Sands Hotel Convention Center a mile or so south of the main venue, there is another huge space for the overflow. Many of the exhibitors were similar to those at the Hilton--small Asian electronics companies. However, I found several innovative offerings here and a greater variety of products including games, furniture, household appliances such as robotic vacuum cleaners, and a variety of other robots.

Second CES Favorite: Slingbox

I have to say that my favorite at the Sands was Sling Media�s impressive exhibit. For a relatively small company, all the employees really pulled together to put on a great show complete with all their partners including Palm.

I had a nice meeting with Blake Krikorian, the CEO and founder of SlingMedia. Krikorian had some real whammies to release at CES. For instance, one new product expected to be ready in the second quarter of 2007 is Clip Sling, which will enable users to take snippets from a TV show to share with friends. CBS is joining forces with Sling Media to form a YouTube type community using this product.

Sling Media also announced SlingCatcher and SlingProjector. These applications will enable users to project Web content or any content from a computer onto a TV screen, which is the reverse of Slingbox. You don�t even need a computer to stream Internet content to a TV screen with SlingProjector. Think of the possibilities. HP is going to pre-install SlingPlayer on its consumer notebooks.

Krikorian also announced at CES that SlingPlayer and Slingbox have been enhanced and optimized to work seamlessly with the new Microsoft Vista operating system and will take advantage of the new system�s powerful video features.

Perhaps the most momentous announcement from Sling Media was that Slingbox is now available for PalmOS Treos. Previously, Slingbox only worked on Windows Mobile devices. So, that should make you Palmsters out there happy campers, and I recommend that you take advantage of the opportunity.

Sling Media even managed to score an Emmy award during CES for outstanding achievement in advanced media technology for the creation of non-traditional programs or platforms. Clearly, this innovative company has lots to offer and is really going places.

For more information on Slingbox, please read my recent review. Buy at TreoCentral.

Note: Look for a PalmOS SlingPlayer review by Harv Laser coming soon.

Third CES Favorite: Treo 750 Smart Device

It is pretty clear that the U.S. market is usually the last to receive innovative telephony products because of all the hoops the FCC and telcos make developers jump through. For instance, I saw some killer devices from HTC that would make anyone drool. However, they are all waiting for telco approval. I wondered when the Palm 750 would be available in this country after its release in Europe first. Well, it�s finally here, and it�s about time!

The new Palm 750 is almost identical to the 700w and wx in appearance, except that it has lost that ugly antenna and it has some minor keypad changes. The big difference is that it is Palm's first 3G GSM device, which makes it usable pretty much anywhere in the world.

It still has that silly connector at the bottom of the unit that requires a separate cable for USB sync and another cable for charging. Why not combine the two functions with the use of a standard mini-USB connector as most other machines have these days? This is really a non-issue when virtually all of the machines made by HTC already have such a setup in place. HTC makes the Palm 750 and could have easily added a mini USB connector. Obviously, for some inexplicable reason, Palm didn�t want to change its outmoded system.

Perhaps my biggest disappointments are that the screen is still just 240 x 240 pixels, and there is no built-in Wi-Fi. It�s almost incomprehensible to me that any Pocket PC would enter the market place without Wi-Fi. It seems obvious that this was probably beyond Palm�s control and a dictate of a greedy telco that wants you to use their pokey network and charge you for it instead of fast, free Wi-Fi. Bah!

Not only does it not have built-in Wi-Fi, it has switched from an SD card slot to a mini-SD card slot. Luckily, you can buy the Spectec miniSD Wi-Fi Card for $89.95 at TreoCentral and connect anywhere you have Wi-Fi access - at home, work, or on the go.

The new 750 still uses the 1.3 MPX camera when most of the new Pocket PCs are going to 2.0 and 3.0 MPX.

Here�s some good news: the Bluetooth codecs have been upgraded so that you can listen to stereo sound and use wireless Bluetooth headphones. The Samsung 300 MHz processor is a bit slower though.

Anyway, it�s a nice unit, and I will give it a complete review when I get my hands on one next week. I am amused that Palm and Cingular are not touting the 750 as a Smartphone because it�s not a Smartphone, it�s a Pocket PC. Now they are calling it a Smart Device, which makes a lot more sense and avoids confusion as users will no longer try in vain to use Smartphone software on a Pocket PC.

Incidentally, you may be interested to know that I noticed more Palm packers than any other type of phone at CES. I couldn�t tell you if they were Palm OS or WM5 because they were usually glued to the owner�s ear or ensconced in a case. But, I suspect that the majority were WM5 because of the dominant Microsoft presence at CES.

Fourth CES Favorite: SanDisk Sansa Connect >>

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