CTIA Wireless IT 2005 Conference Notes
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Palm was not the only company making news at in San Francisco this week. In fact, there is an entire conference going on full of new Treo related products. TreoCentral spent much of the Tuesday talking to other companies about their efforts. Below are some of the most interesting product announcements and demos we saw.
Early in the morning, we met up with Brian Jaquet, Director of Product Marketing for SlingMedia. Jaquet as some may remember was one of the main public relations officers for Handspring, working on the release of everything from Visors to Treos. Now, with SlingMedia, as he puts it, he gets to continue his love of technology and combine it with his love for sports.
SlingMedia produces a server box that plugs into your TV, TiVo, DirectTC , DVD player etc, and encodes whatever is showing on your TV, including local sports games, sending it across your home broadband connection to mobile devices around the world. They launched their box this summer at a retail price of $250, with no monthly reoccurring fees. At the coffee shop we were at, Jaquet demoed the Windows client of the viewer software on a laptop over a PCMICIA card Verizon EVDO connection. The video was about 220 kbps, using a proprietary zero buffering required codec, and was good enough quality - perfectly watchable in a medium sized windows. but no where near DVD. Full screen quality was very poor.
The reason Jaquet called us up was not to demo the laptop/desktop client, instead, he showed us a beta of a new Windows Mobile client that allows you to watch your TV anywhere you have a EVDO connection. This client will work on any Windows Mobile device, including the upcoming Palm Windows Mobile Treo. It offers a fullscreen mode, and full control of your home television system. The demo that I saw was far higher quality than the MobiTV that I currently use to on my Treo. While it was approximately the same framerate as MobiTV (10-20 fps), the resolution was dramatically better. One could easily read the text that often accompanies news reports, or in our case ESPN.
The idea of streaming TV to mobile devices is like that of MobiTV, however SlingMedia differentiates themselves from MobiTV by offering your local TV, your recorded shows on your TV, or your DVD that is in your DVD player (to name a few of the options). MobiTV currently only offers a selection of mobile channels. In their defense, they told me today that as soon as carriers turn on Location Based Services (the GPS chip in every cellphone), they will be able to offer local television stations. With SlingMedia, anything that you can watch at home, you can watch through the Windows Mobile client or Windows 2000/XP client.
The demo that Jaquet gave was very convincing, and only made me appreciate the power of 3G services even more. It will be very interesting to see what other high bandwidth applications people begin to port to the Palm/Windows environment for the Treo. SlingMedia's Windows Mobile client will be available Fall 2005, in plenty of time for the launch of the Windows Treo for an additional price of $25 on top of the $250 Sling Box.
Altec Lansing Palm Multi-Connector speakers
Why let iPods have all the fun? Today, Altec Lansing launched a portable speaker system for the Treo called the InMotion IMT1 and were demoing it at the Palm booth of CTIA. Any Multi-ConectorPalm device can plug in at top, and the speakers will play whatever sound the palm is generating, whether it be music or the audio from video. The speakers run off a DC power adaptor or for 18 hours on 4 AA batteries, and have line outs for headphones, and a line in for AUX. They also have a USB port, as it will sync and charge whatever device is placed in it. As an added bonus, the speakers act as a complete speakerphone system for the Treo. The only thing stopping one from taking your Treo to the beach boombox style is the price: $179. Alas, the speakers will not dock with iPods, or any non universal connector device.
As a final note about CTIA, I wanted to share two cool things that I saw or used while there. The first was an SMS enabled coke machine made by simplewire. You walked up to it, dialed a five digit number, ordered your product, and about 30 seconds later it spit out your drink (along with displaying half of your phone number so you knew which drink was whose). The drink is billed to your cellular account. Supposedly these are over Japan, but after buying my first SMS coke, I would love to do this everywhere. Who carries cash anymore?
The next thing was a lifesaver to me as I navigated San Francisco. It is very easy to get lost when you have no idea where you are, and what is a better map than Google Maps? Kmaps is a free program, about 2 months old, powered by the Google Maps API , that searches for address, routes, and renders the resulting map right on the Treo. It is an incredible use of the wireless technology in the Treo - I think of it as quazi GPS. if you know the city you are in and can see an intersection, you can download a full map of the area, scroll it, zoom in/out etc. Kmaps also has many community features such as a parking space notifier. It is a very powerful program, and I highly recommend everyone to take a look at it.