Electronics extravaganza opens amid high hopes
By Andy Goldberg Jan 9, 2007, 9:44 GMT
Las Vegas/San Francisco - New year, new gadgets. That's the perennial promise of the Consumer Electronics Show, which opened its trade floor for the 40th year Monday, hoping to deliver on the Holy Grail of the tech industry - glitch-free devices that seamlessly enhance life.
Cynical veterans of the show will say they've heard it all before. And the truth is Bill Gates' opening keynote speech sounded suspiciously familiar with its talk of a digital decade filled with amazing technology that works just the way you want it - just around the corner.
As the experts at SiliconValley.com pointed out, Gates introduced the digital decade in 2001 and has been making the same promises every year since.
'Funny thing, Gates said pretty much the same thing last year. And in 2005, as well,' they wrote.
But the point is the future is actually getting closer in incremental steps, rather than in one revolutionary leap. And this year Microsoft has some cool news. Its Windows Vista operating system is about to hit the consumer market and promises to vastly improve the PC experience, and its Xbox 360 just sold 10 million units.
Gates also announced a new voice activated digital car system and a Windows home server to control data in homes with multiple PCs, which he said now account for over 30 per cent of the 106 million households in the US.
While having a home server might sound like the epitome of nerdiness, a host of other companies are rolling out products that are taking technology out of the hands of geeks and into the cars, offices, living rooms and pockets of the average Joe and Jane.
That transition is helping the consumer electronics industry sustain a remarkable surge in growth. According to Gary Shapiro, the head of industry trade group the Consumer Electronics Association, sales in the US will top 155 billion dollars this year. The bulk of that amount will be spent on screens and monitors, which will account for 26 billion dollars in sales.
With over 140,000 people attending the Consumer Electronics Show and 2,700 companies exhibiting on floor space that would cover some 15 football fields, it can be hard to pinpoint a focus for the show. But Shapiro says the job is easy: it's all about giving users the power to control the information that is useful to their lives.
'Innovation is focused on essentially one thing, which is shifting content in time and place,' Shapiro said in his speech Monday.
A plethora of devices and technologies are making this easier than ever as access to online music and video content flourishes. It's not just sites like YouTube and MySpace that are offering music and videos for download. From iTunes to the BBC, media companies are offering their shows online, while other sites like Peekvideo.com and Bitcomet offer a plethora of viewing to those who don't mind surfing on the edge of copyright laws.
So what are the cool, new gadgets that can help consumers live the digital life in style? Well, no modern home is complete without a shiny home theatre system, and from Monday movie buffs might not think their theatre system is really complete without Sharp's 274- centimetre LCD television - the largest in the world.
The Japanese company believes that this invention establishes LCD as the format of choice for flat-panel televisions, being both larger and brighter than its plasma rivals.
Meanwhile Korean electronics firm LG came forward with a truce maker for Japanese rivals Sony and Hitachi, who are both promoting rival versions of high definition CDs. LG's solution is a CD player that plays both formats.
Intel meanwhile showed off a computer that runs eight processors simultaneously and announced the debut of three new quad-core models that use four microchips apiece.
Both Yahoo and Google announced alliances with phone makers Motorola and Samsung for better internet phones, while HP launched a 48-centimetre computer designed for double duty as the main family TV.
The list goes on and on, which is the ultimate point of the huge confab.
'There are countless trade shows, but there is nothing, utterly nothing, like the Consumer Electronics Show,' said David Butler a spokesman for XM satellite radio. 'Just the sheer number of people put it into a category by itself. It's the ultimate opportunity to meet with all the major players under one roof.'© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur