Unless I missed the CES pavilion with stunning new technologies waiting to take on the world this year's show seemed to be more about evolutionary steps for existing products. I already mentioned the water-tight Pentax camera that remains my single favorite gadget concept from the show. I'm still anticipating what the real performance will be once they start sending out review units to press folk like me. Not a revolutionary step anymore than more megapixels would be.
The best new cell phone feature I noted on the show floor came from the Samsung booth. After prying my eyes from the 102-inch big screen my attention was drawn to cell phones with speech-to-text conversion that actually works. The loud noise of the tradeshow floor didn't prevent the possibility of dictating a memo Mr. Spacely style into a phone where the text could be emailed or text messaged off to a recipient. To me, this is a far more logical evolution of phone technology than 1-thumbing T9 text or adding a keyboard to pretend you like typing to a 2-inch screen.
In the world of automotive entertainment every manufacturer is racing to integrate with the iPod. We've previously seen a number of progressions in this direction but virtually every car audio company is racing toward full integration with iPod devices, including head unit navigation of tracks. To a lesser degree, companies are aiming for the entire portable audio space but all eyes are on capturing more dollars from the iPod crowd. This was further emphasized when Apple announced partnerships with several automakers at Mac World. Of course, Streaming Internet radio in your car might not be too far off with at least three companies offering car-mounted Satellite systems for in transit surfing.
For every car company making iPod add-ons, CES seemed to have at least two companies offering a PVR solution aimed at supplanting Tivo as the dominant time shifting solution the couch potato in us all. I want to record television and watch at my leisure, but most of the companies are still scrambling to match up to SnapStream, Media Center, and Tivo. Two bright spots exist in this space, although they only indirectly tie into the time-shift process. Tivo partnered with Microsoft to make recorded content portable from Tivo boxes to various Windows devices which is a much needed step. Orb goes further giving you access to any media content on your home PC anywhere on the planet using cell phones, PDAs, or laptops. You can even push images and audio back to your home PC.
At the end of the show, my favorite gadget remains the Edirol R-1 I brought with me. Using the recorder in combination with a Sennheiser e835 handheld microphone to interview companies at CES proved to be a great attention getter. I often had people ignoring the current booth in favor of checking out the R-1. It's already the best money I spent in 2004. Note to Edirol: You should get a booth at CES next year, consumers like your products. As part of the process to test the unit out, I talked a little about the R-1 feature set in a test recording using the on board microphones. After a few settings tweaks later recordings got much better. A better example might be this outtake on the difference between DLP and plasma screens as explained by a rep from Texas Instruments. You can catch the show live again on Thursday 13 January 2005 at 7pm Pacific.