We’re off on the road to Las Vegas for the 2010 edition of the Consumer Electronic Show, or as it’s known around here, nerdstock.
I haven’t been to CES since 2004 and I’m sure looking forward to it. This is the premiere technology event of the year with 100,000 visitors, thousands of exhibitors, and dozens of football fields worth of booths. I’m bringing the entire staff down along with most of our gear for the most complete coverage TWiT has ever done for an event.
Dr. Kirsten Sanford will join me as co-host and we’ll be getting visits from many of the TWiT regulars including Paul Thurrott, Dick DeBartolo, Scott Wilkinson, Wil Harris, Ryan Shrout, Tom Merritt, Becky Worley, Patrick Norton, Roger Chang, and on and on. Not to mention interviews with CES keynoter and Ford CEO, Alan Mulally and other luminaries.
We’ll be streaming live from the parties Wednesday and Thursday evenings, and all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from the CES show floor, and doing many of our regular shows including The Tech Guy, The Daily Giz Wiz, Windows Weekly, and TWiT and TWiG. Watch live at http://live.twit.tv as usual, or subscribe to our special CES podcasts at http://twit.tv/ces.
UPDATE: Here’s how to follow us in Vegas
http://twit.tv/ces (click the Subscribe dropdown to add the feed to iTunes, Zune, etc.)
http://twitter.com/leolaporte (watch for the #CES hashtag)
http://foursquare.com/user/leolaporte (I’ve decided to focus on Foursquare for location updates)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/leoville/ – I’ve hooked up my camera to autopost to Flicker via Eye-Fi
Everything I do is also piped to my Friendfeed account.
I’m back to work on my usual weekly appearances on The Bill Handel Show on KFI Los Angeles (Fridays at 7:50a) and The John Donabie Show on CFRB Toronto (Saturdays at 7:50a). This week the big topics are, of course CES and MacWorld Expo.
CES, The Consumer Electronics Show, is wrapping up today in Las Vegas. It’s big with 140,000 attendees this year (down from a peak of 150,000) and major media attention (NBC Nightly News broadcast from the show floor) but many attendees are complaining that there’s not much to see of interest among the 2700 exhibitors filling 1.8 million square feet of exhibit space. In fact, I’m tempted to rename it the Craptastic Electronics Show.
In between all the cheap knock-off iPods, and stereo speakers made to look like garden rocks, there were some products of interest. Pioneer displayed a new Kuro 50″ plasma TV that’s only 9mm thick – thinner than an iPhone – but it’s only a “concept.” No word on whether they’ll ever make it.
OLED TVs garnered interest once again this year. In fact, Sony is finally selling one. The 11″ Sony XEL-1, just 3 millimeters thick, costs $2,500. Never mind.
Panasonic showed a 150″ Plasma screen – the largest ever – but if you have to ask how much… you can’t afford it. It requires a 747 to transport it and you’ll have to take the roof off your house to install it.
The biggest news at CES happened four days before the show began. Movie studio Warner Brothers announced that it would stop making HD-DVD versions of its movies and deliver Blu-ray only from now on. This is seen as a death blow to the HD-DVD format – only Universal and Paramount will continue to offer HD-DVD titles and rumors were flying on the show floor that those studios might soon defect to the Blu-ray camp, as well. Microsoft which had planned to preview an XBox360 with built-in HD-DVD quickly pulled that announcement, and the HD-DVD press conference scheduled for CES was abruptly cancelled.
Bill Gates also gave his last keynote at CES on Sunday night. Gates is retiring from day-to-day operations at Microsoft in six months. His speech, as usual, contained little news, but did feature a funny video of his “last day” at work which featured Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, George Clooney, and Bono.
One of the biggest players in consumer electronics, Apple, stayed away again this year. Last year Apple’s iPhone announcement in San Francisco completely overshadowed CES in Vegas. This year, MacWorld Expo is a week later, so while Apple’s not stealing attention from CES, it does feel a little like we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.
After a lackluster show like this, with high hotel prices, impossible cab lines, and very little news to take home, I have to wonder how long it will be before CES follows its late brother, Comdex, into the tradeshow graveyard.
The best thing about Bill Gates’s keynotes at Comdex and CES were always the videos. He ends his run at Microsoft with a doozey featuring Clinton, Obama, George Clooney, Steven Spielberg, and even Bono. And you have to love Bill Gates as Wolverine.
CES is the week before and I’m happy to say I will be skipping that monster of a show for the third year in a row. I was thinking of doing the radio show from there until I found out that for the first time CES would not be open on the weekend. Just as well. It’s an almost impossible conference to cover on-site (and I’ll be getting back from a family trip to Egypt the day before anyway).
The news from CES.
But first, happy birthday Elvis. The king would have been 69.
The show floor doesn’t open until 10a, but CES kicked off last night with the traditional Bill Gates keynote address. I arrived too late last night to attend the address, so I missed the witty videos that Bill usually shows, but here’s the hard news culled from people who were there.
- Xbox Live will hit one million subscribers by June. Bill Gates told Reuters in an interview before his keynote last night that Microsoft would be releasing a kit for the gaming console that would turn it into a DVR, giving it much of the functionality of the Windows XP Media Center.
- Jay Leno assisted Gates at his CES Keynote, suggesting the mogul consider Lasik and saying Gates still owed him $20 for lunch from the Windows 95 launch. Leno was there to help Gates launch a new verion of MSN.
The Microsoft CEO also showed the Media Center Extender, a small set-top box which would bring content from the PC to the TV. Gates said some TVs would come with the capability built-in. He also talked about the Portable Media Center (see yesterday’s entry), announcing content deals with EMI Music, Napster, and Cinema Now. And he said the SPOT watch which Microsoft had announced at last year’s CES will finally be available next week. A transcript of Gates speech is online at the Microsoft web site.
- Quotations from Chairman Bill:
“A particular challenge here is making sure that we strike the right balance in managing digital rights and yet having the simplicity that you can move the content that you paid for around and have it available in the richest possible way — a very tough problem”
He said that Microsoft was spending record amounts on R&D to support “seamless computing:”
So the theme of seamless computing, bringing the smart devices together with very rich interfaces, that’s what we’re dedicated to and that’s why we’re investing so much in the software and the partnerships that will pull this together.
He struck a blow for upgrades:
Many of the types of software products I’ll talk about tonight are not software products that you just buy one time and that’s it… the relationship between us and that software user is very different in terms of learning what we can improve and delivering those improvements on a constant basis.
On the new SPOT watch:
That technology is pretty amazing because it’s got not only a wireless network receiver that uses a form of FM to connect up here but it’s also got a very powerful computer… All I have to do is go onto the Web, use an account and type in the watch registration number, which I’ve already done that so I’m on here.
Great. A wristwatch that requires a computer to program. Microsoft software will also continue to appear in cell phones:
Here you can see all the different phones and there’s quite a variety of form factors from the very small ones that you think of as more phone like to the larger ones that are more PDA-like. And the variety here will just increase over time as people want to add in GPS devices, as we go to different aspect ratios, different keyboard capabilities. You can see one already there with the keyboard, but you’ll see more of those. That is a trend that is important.
Uh huh. And automotive?
In the car it’s a particular challenge that you don’t want to distract the driver, so here’s where we know that as you go to your car, the idea of having directions that you’ve looked up on a PC or on a phone, having those available to you through a map or an audio readout, that makes sense. Having any new tunes that you got at home brought down to the device in the car or videos for the passengers, particularly the kids, that should be very automatic. And after all, your car is now generally within range of your Wi-Fi network, not always but in many households that’s true and so just by having a receiver you can make that so you don’t have to do manual synchronization. Even if you’re listening to, say, a radio show, an NPR show, right, wherever you are, you ought to be able to have the rest of that streamed down to the car and then listen to it on demand through the rich device there in the car.
Cool. Where do I get one of them rich devices? Set top boxes have always been a challenging arena for Microsoft. The very limited hardware makes it tough for software.
We have software that runs even on the current set-top boxes, so our strategy is not based on just relying on a new generation, we went back and wrote software for even the very resource limited boxes that are out there. That’s called our Foundation product. Today we’re announcing the version 1.5, which is where you get the high definition and digital video recording support. More and more through add-ons, the set-top boxes are including those capabilities.
His vision for the future of TV?
A big project for us in this TV space we call IPTV, and this is assuming that in the future programs won’t just be sent in a broadcast mode, but they’ll be sent over the IP data network and so the ability to have high-definition, arbitrary number of channels, user in control, targeted advertising, rich interaction, those things become possible when you think of the platform as an IP-type platform. And helping make that transition very economical and simple for the cable operators is something that we believe that software can make that very possible.
Gates also showed the Portable Media Center and Media Center Extender, both ways to move content from your PC to your TV and beyond.
There’s been a missing standard in the media area where every device that wanted to go up to the PC and find out what sort of audio or video things were there insisted that people had to install software on the PC, and as such on all your different PCs you get different versions of that software. Really, we decided that shouldn’t be necessary. You should be able to go out and buy a portable media device, or a device that lets you go in and see the audio or picture files on the PC with no software installation required at all.
As long as you’re using Windows, that is. He concluded…
And that is the magic of software. It’s the very rapid hardware advance, the idea of software platforms, great software development tools, and software richness that makes me very optimistic that even though people have many, many devices, lots of music, lots of videos, lots of memory, even though they won’t have time to want to manage these systems, and move data around we will be able to create the ideal for them, whether it’s communicating, creating, or just consuming the best content that’s out there.
- One surprise was the lack of comment on tablet PCs. In an interview with c|net Gates admitted that he might have been a little premature in his support for the form factor:
Many of my assumptions–I’d say a high percentage–are overly ambitious. I have to wait longer to have them come true. I was working doing the Tablet PC for a decade before it came out. Now, it’s gaining traction, but we have lots work to do. I believe that it will be mainstream on every portable PC, but we’re a long way from that.
- In other news, Slashdot is reporting that the new version of Photoshop won’t let you open images of money. Paintshop Pro seems to have the same restriction.
Talk about hitting the ground running. Wednesday I’m doing a presentation on Mac OS X secrets at MacWorld Expo and I’ve been spending the last few days frantically trying to find some. Secrets, that is. The pressure’s on because this presentation is for the ProTrack – meaning I can’t just show them cool Command key combos. Fortunately, there are lots of UNIX hacks I can do. Did you know the emacs text editor has Eliza built-in? Hit Shift-Esc then enter “k doctor” and confess your troubles. The doctor is in.
Then Thursday morning I’m flying to Las Vegas to host the Best of CES awards for TechTV. I’ll be doing feeds from Vegas for The Screen Savers and various other media outlets, too. It’s going to be hectic, because I have to find a dozen or so really cool products to bring to New York City the following week for Live with Regis and Kelly. That’s right, unbelievably, they’ve already asked me back, less than a month after my last appearance. Regis is going to get really sick of me, I just know it.
TechTV PR wanted more and better plugs on the show, so they’ve had some sweaters made up for me with the TechTV logo on them to wear on the show. That way if Regis forgets to mention TechTV it’s ok. Jeez. I might as well be wearing an orange blazer with a TechTV patch. Just kidding guys. Really.
I’m flying to NYC after the show on Monday, rehearsing Tuesday, doing Live on Wednesday, then flying right back for TSS that night.
I need a vacation already.