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CES Report January 8th

LAS VEGAS – Thursday, January 8, 2009

After much anticipation – and more than a little nervousness from the organizers and the industry in general – the massive Consumer Electronics Show finally opened here today.

Pre-show estimates suggested that the attendance might be down about 30% from the 2008 high of 140,000 visitors and if you talk to the experts on these matters – the City’s taxi drivers – then that forecast sounds about right! But 100,000 is still a lot of people and the exhibit hall aisles were crowded as the consumer electronic industry’s leading brands put on their best face despite the economic turmoil and plunging consumer confidence.

Much of the early press commentary suggests that there is less to talk about this year, with blockbuster product announcements being few and far between, Bill Gates in semi-retirement, and far fewer celebrities to draw a crowd at the ubiquitous press events and booth displays. Even the long shadow usually cast by the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco, which ran earlier in the week, was diminished this year with the absence of Steve Jobs and a similar dearth of headline-grabbing announcements from Apple.

Still, there were some game-changing products unveiled on the first day, along with announcements from the big guns that are still shaping the industry.  Here’s a quick selection:

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft surprised many people by announcing that they were making the beta version of Windows 7 available immediately. Windows 7 is the much-anticipated follow-up to Vista and an early release of the beta version has some commentators speculating that the consumer-ready version could be in the stores as early as the end of this year.

Microsoft has taken heat in the past couple of years for some early flaws in Vista but it has steadily improved the product with patches and downloads. Windows 7 will consolidate all those improvements and continue Microsoft’s mission to define Windows as not just the dominant PC operating system but the critical ecosystem which links all the mobile, entertainment, and social networking platforms that now populate our lives.

Look for a late 2009 release of Windows 7 to provide a much-needed boost for the PC and notebook manufacturers and retailers.

Sony DSC-G3 Cyber-shot™ Digital Camera

This great-looking point-and-shoot camera from Sony has built-in wireless internet connectivity, which allows users to share pictures and videos directly from the camera without the need to upload to a computer first. It also has an Easy Upload Page that connects with 5 video and photo-sharing sites – YouTube, PhotoBucket, Picasa, Shutterfly and DailyMotion – with others sure to follow.

The G3 heralds an era of built-in Ethernet and wireless connectivity for cameras and a range of other entertainment devices that have previously relied on computer upload for sharing and distribution.

It also comes with image sensors, face detection technology, anti-blur solutions, image stabilization sensors and all the other features that were previously the exclusive domain of high-end DSLR cameras.  The G3 will retail for $499.99 when it ships later this month.

Palm Pre Smartphone

On Thursday, Palm introduced what many are calling the most radical new phone since the iPhone – the Pre™.  The Pre runs Palm’s new webOS operating system, which connects all the applications on the phone to the web, allowing for constant updates without any manual intervention or downloads.

The Pre has been described as the most people-centric smartphone ever. The Palm Synergy™ application allows you to consolidate your contacts from various locations – Outlook, Google, Facebook – into a unified contact list. It does the same for calendars and photos, eliminating duplications and making it easier to find previously stored information.

The Pre also allows you to open and move between multiple applications, similar to how you would use a computer or notebook. Like the iPhone and the BlackBerry, the Pre let’s you take advantage of Wi-Fi hotspots and look up points of interest using GPS.

Kids@Play

For the first time the CES show floor is featuring a Kids@Play area, focusing on the technologies directly affecting our children.  The area showcases a mix of actual and virtual electronic toys and games, along with Internet safety software and educational applications.  A few highlights:

Electronic Arts is expanding its range of games for kids (and adults) through its exclusive partnership with Hasbro. The Littlest Pet Shop game series for girls age 6-10 will now be available on DS; Trivial Pursuit is coming to the Wii; Scrabble will be available on every major gaming platform; and the latest in the top-selling Sims franchise, Sims 3 will be available on the PC.

Kidzui continues to expand its virtual web for kids, introducing additional search features and continuing to seek out the best entertainment and educational sites for pre-teens.

PBS Kids is demo-ing their updated PBS Kids Play! web site for 3-6 year olds. The site originally launched in 2007 but has been significantly expanded with additional characters and tracking features, so parents can measure their child’s progress and achievements.

The Princeton Review is teaming up with Ubisoft to bring some of its educational and test-prep programs to the world of video games. MySAT Coach will launch on the Nintendo DS in 2009.

Look for more reports from CES in the next few days!

The Online Mom

Click here to go to our January 7, 2009 CES Report



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