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Tech Report – Consumer Electronics Show

By Michael Connolly

The first day of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was the usual mix of loud noise, long lines and general confusion, as over 100,000 people tried to find their way around the 1 million square feet of exhibit space.

Over 2,500 tech companies are participating this year, showing everything from large-screen home theaters to the latest digital toys for tots. It's a gadget geek's dream come true, but it's also a place where anyone interested in technology can take a look into the future and see what's coming next.

Here are some highlights from the first day:

The year of the Tablet

It looks like 2010 will be the year of the tablet PC. Bigger than an iPhone but smaller than a netbook, the tablet or slate PC is an e-reader, entertainment center and mini-PC all rolled into one.

As many people wait to see what Apple is going to do in this space (an "iSlate" is expected to be introduced at the end of this month), the rest of the industry has been busy. Dell, HP, Lenovo and Sony are just a few of the manufacturers to debut tablet computers at CES and many more are expected to follow.

Meanwhile, don't expect pure e-readers to go away any time soon. Hearst unveiled the Skiff (shown here), Plastic Logic announced a release date for the Que, and Amazon introduced the Kindle DX with global wireless.

In-car technology

It seems we can't be without our gadgets, e-mail and social networks for a second, even when we're behind the wheel of a car. At CES, Ford CEO Alan Mulally gave perhaps the most riveting keynote of the day, as he previewed the latest version of their in-car Sync technology.

Not content with providing voice-command access to phones and iPods, the next generation of cars will have full Internet access, text messaging capability, and voice-controlled access to networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, LCD touch screens will dominate the car's center console, allowing one-touch command of every function, even down to changing the color of the interior lighting! Ford expects its MyFordTouch system (shown here) to be available later this year on its 2011 Edge models.

3D in the Living Room

Timing is everything. Riding a wave of interest in 3D created by the hit movie Avatar, the TV manufacturers were climbing all over each other, claiming leadership in the upcoming 3D TV revolution.

Panasonic, LG and Sony were all showing off new sets that will be compatible with 3D programming, which is expected to begin in Europe and the U.S. later this year.

Perhaps mindful of how most multiplex visitors are only too happy to dump their 3D glasses at the end of the movie, Panasonic also showed off some very cool-looking 3D specs (shown here).

Smartbooks

Despite the rush to tablet PCs, other companies are seeking to fill the gap between smartphones and netbooks with "smartbooks". This stylish Skylight from Lenovo features a 10-inch screen, Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity and a super-fast Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. The big game-changer here is the battery life; Lenovo claims the Skylight will last up to 10 hours on one charge!

The Skylight will be in the stores this Spring.

Thin is in

And, of course, it wouldn't be CES without the endless displays of giant TVs and home theaters. But after TVs peaked with Panasonic's gargantuan 150-inch plasma back in 2008, it's not about how big; instead it's all about how thick.

LG unveiled a high-definition TV that's a mere 0.92 inches thick, thinner than any other set on the market. Expected to hit the stores later this Summer, it will also be 3D-enabled.

Not to be outdone, Samsung showed off a ridiculously thin 0.27-inch prototype (shown here), which is skinnier than a pencil. Other manufacturers are expected to follow with their own slim TVs, including many that will receive content via a set-top box discretely hidden away elsewhere.



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