Saturday: Press Preview Day 1
CES doesn't officially kick off until Monday, but the weekend is full of press events to focus the media's attention on what the trends are this year and who the big players will be at the show. It's a schmoozfest, to be sure, and why not? CES and its exhibiting companies want to score points early and often with the press, so Saturday began the onslaught of goodie bags, product samples, free food and open bars. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.
There is business to take care of, however, and the first press conference I go to is the "State of the Consumer Electronics Industry" presented by Sean Wango with the Consumer Electronics Association, the group that puts on CES.
It's an hour of number crunching about sales trends and what's hot and what's not in consumer electronics, but there is some very relevant information. For instance, I quickly learned that:
1. The state of the consumer electronics industry is solid, with more Americans spending more dollars and a higher percentage of their disposable incomes on products than ever before.
2. I can't afford half this stuff.
3. I really need to upgrade from Windows ME.
The key themes we'll see at the show are the drive towards realism (hi-def TV's and DVD's, the new generation of video games), greater connectivity (Wi-Fi, broadband, Bluetooth), greater portabilty (how many features can you cram in your cell phone?--'cuz there're more coming) and what Sean calls "disruptive distribution," which are the new ways content is distributed outside of traditional news and entertainment media (YouTube, MySpace and even MiceChat). We're challenged to "find the innovation"--the next big thing. Trust me. If you can't find something at CES to shout about, you're not looking.
The highlight of Saturday was "CES Unveiled," a preview of what we'll see once the exhibit halls officially open on Monday. I call it "CES Lite" since there only about 80 vendors and most of them are smaller companies that could use a jump start from the media. There are no huge displays here, only a few HDTV's to be seen (Monday will be HD overload), and a party atmosphere prevails with free food and drink, celebrity impersonators and lots and lots of people.
I had my share of fun. Here I am with Madonna Wannabe and Maybe Michael:
Quirky products are the order of the evening. These were my favorites:
From Interactive Toy Concepts is a radio controlled "firefly" that retails for about $69. It flies up, down, side to side and even hovers. It's for indoor use only, so beware of the breakage potential in your house.
Michael from Interactive takes one for a spin:
For the fashion-conscious laptop buyer is this sexy little number from AMD:
The Tulip Ego laptop is powered by an AMD Turion 64 processor and comes in different "skins" (the zebra stripe is also quite smart). For about five grand it can be yours.
Do you like your digital music poolside, but fear soaking your iPod? Atlantic Inc. has the answer: A watertight cover with speakers that'll keep the unit dry while you're cranking the tunes.
And did I mention it floats?
Atlantic's Waterproof Sound Case is available in stores now for $149.
We're in Vegas baby, so your visit isn't complete without music from "The King"--even if it's just from his disembodied head.
Wow Wee Electronics makes this singing Elvis that is remarkably lifelike (ok, without the arms and legs). He performs 8 classic songs and 30 Elvis monologues with synchronized mouth and head movements. It'll be in stores in June, and for $349 it's guaranteed to entertain, amuse . . . and totally creep you out.
No word on if he sings "Grim Grinning Ghosts."
For the hardcore gamer, Hotseat Chassis has this Flight Sim-Flight Ready Extreme PC bundle with a 1.8 ghz Intel processor, Nvidia 512mb video card and 2 gigs of ram arranged in this cockpit framework. The monitor is a 23" HD LCD display and the sound is pumped out in thundering Dolby 5.1 surround sound--with the subwoofer positioned directly under your seat. Available now for just under $4,000.
That's all for now. Happy landings and stay cool!