This year’s International Consumer Electronics Show was all about wireless. In fact, wireless was probably the most pervasive of all technologies at this year’s show, extending its reach to every sector of technology, from Ford’s Sync system to set-top boxes, home entertainment systems, health care, e-readers, tablets and M2M.
Wireless begins with the chipmakers. They’re the ones that actually get the magic in the gizmos. Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel, gave a keynote on Thursday that sketched a vision of an entirely wire- and cord-free future. Qualcomm’s CEO, Paul Jacobs, talked with similar enthusiasm for wireless in his keynote on Friday.
"We're here today to talk about the convergence of wireless in consumer electronics, because it's happening in a big, big way," Jacobs said.
To be sure, the chip technology is there, as are a number of new device classes into which they will be embedded. As expected, e-readers were also big. In all, there were approximately four big e-reader announcements at the show.
Amazon’s Kindle will now be contending with a new flexible device from Plastic Logic, the Que. Hearst Corp. released the Skiff e-reader, which will take its connectivity from Sprint. Spring Designs’ Alex e-reader was unveiled, as well as a new e-reader from Entourage Systems, the eDGe device.
But even as the e-reader chorus grew, it was almost simultaneously drowned out by the equally hyped tablet news. Just days prior to the show’s opening, The Wall Street Journal reported that Apple would indeed be rolling out its long-anticipated tablet at the MacWorld event in early February. Yet there was a flood of tablet-like device releases at the show, some of which seemed almost forced, if only to beat Apple to the punch.
The tablets seemed to suffer from a lack of definition. For instance, Dell introduced its version of the tablet, which for all intents and purposes looked more like a souped-up smartphone (the device features a mere 5-inch display) than a true tablet, as imagined by the throngs of bloggers and journalists following Apple’s impending release.
In his keynote, Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer got behind an as-yet-unnamed tablet from the likes of HP. The HP tablet was seen as a bit of a letdown, as many had anticipated that Ballmer would be unveiling the Microsoft Courier, a tablet for which the computing giant has already released marketing videos on the Web. Many at the show speculated that the decision by Ballmer to get behind the HP device was a last-minute decision in light of Apple’s news.
Last but not least in the tablet space was the Lenovo IdeaPad U1. The IdeaPad U1 is a hybrid device, with elements of both the tablet and a laptop. The IdeaPad U1 was probably the most-well-received of the tablet devices at the show. The laptop features an 11.6-inch detachable HD screen. When detached, the screen becomes a tablet, running Lenovo's Skylight Linux operating system and a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor. It also has embedded wireless 3G.
Of course, no one left CES without hearing the word “Android” at least once. Google’s mobile platform is gaining traction in a big way. The company unveiled the Google Nexus One, the official Google phone, just days before the show. Then numerous OEMs, big and small, proceeded to bring out Android devices at CES.
Motorola introduced the Backflip, which runs on Android and features a unique reverse flip design that acts as a kickstand for viewing media. The back of the touchscreen has a track pad for navigation of the device. The Backflip features Motorola’s UI, Moto Blur.
Meanwhile, HTC introduced the HTC Smart at Jacobs’ keynote, as well as a new Android device coming to AT&T. Additionally, Lenovo announced the LePhone, an Android device that will be released in China, and Dell announced plans to launch its Mini 3 Android smartphone in the U.S.