CES 2004: The IT Perspective
Gadgets with IT appeal have begun to infiltrate the ranks of devices at this predominantly consumer show.
The annual Consumer Electronics Show is decidedly consumer
in nature: An entire convention hall of home theater equipment, for example,
makes it clear that there's as much here for play as for work. However, as technology
continues to evolve and reach new markets, more so-called "consumer"
electronics are just as likely to be found in your data center or even on your
own desk. In fact, this year's CES proved that the line between office and consumer
electronics is thinning.
It was the year of wireless-for real, this time. In fact, an entire convention
hall was devoted to wireless technologies, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular.
The upcoming batch of new cell phones from the major manufacturers shows a real
concern for hard-working individuals; devices sport PDA and PDA-like features,
wireless access to e-mail and the Web and connectivity for synchronizing with
your desktop or laptop. Microsoft has two distinct lines of cell phones: the
Windows-powered SmartPhone, as well as the more PDA-like Pocket PC Phone Edition.
High-end phones from Motorola, Sony, Ericsson, Kyocera, and Samsung were all
aimed squarely at the high-tech consumer or IT pro.
Speaking of wireless, what about T1 speeds—without wires—for $50
a month? That's what DataBahn promises with their upcoming K-band satellite
Internet service, the first competitor to Hughes Electronics' DirecWAY service.
DataBahn's new dishes are available for both fixed and mobile applications,
and start at $60 per month for fixed residential service. Satellites are expected
to be online in March, according to representatives at the show.
|Samsung showcased its Windows SmartPhone enabled device,
the i600. Other manufactures who will come out with SmartPhone lines include
Nokia and Kyocera. (Photo: Samsung.)
Bluetooth, the darling of the wireless world, made a major showing this year.
Logitech showcased an array of Bluetooth-compatible keyboards, mice, and other
devices, while cell phone and PDA manufacturers pitched devices with built-in
Bluetooth capability. GN Netcom, parent company of Jabra, announced a new Bluetooth
headset with the unique capability to bond to two devices, instead of the usual
one. This allows the headset to pick up calls from both an office phone and
a mobile phone. The unit is smart enough to place outgoing calls on the office
landline when it's within range, then to switch to the mobile phone when the
other is out of reach (however, this feature doesn't happen mid-call).
If it was the year of wireless, it was also the year of convergence. Yes, again.
This year, convergence took the form of innumerable media player devices from
Gateway, Dell, NetGear, and others, all designed to occupy a niche similar to
Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition. Generally, these media players
are designed to be plugged into a television, where they'll do anything from
playing MP3s and CDs to playing DVDs and acting as personal video recorders
Device convergence was also a hot topic, and the well-known Blackberry devices
were perhaps the best examples. The newer units, which combine a cell phone
with Blackberry's useful wireless e-mail service, also include PDA-like functions
such as a calendar and contact list. Placing everything in one device makes
it easier for busy IT professional to keep up, whether on the road or just enjoying
a rare evening home with the family.
Center of the Laptop Universe
Intel made a major push for their Centrino brand in 2003, something that's already
been getting a fair share of marketing exposure, and the push continues. Every
major manufacturer has Centrino laptops available, many touting extended battery
life, the addition of built-in Wi-Fi (and often Bluetooth), large screens, and
all the amenities you'd expect in a high-end machine.
Many of the new wave of Tablet PCs also include Centrino technologies, and
are beginning to break the mold established by the original Tablet PCs more
than a year ago. Gateway's new Tablet PC has an enormous 14" screen (most
tablets are in the 10" range), built-in DVD player and high-quality sound.
Like earlier hybrid models, the Gateway's screen pivots 180 degrees and folds
flat, converting the unit from a traditional laptop into an all-screen "slate"
unit. ViewSonic's new tablet is also a hybrid, and is one of the thinnest, lightest-weight
models on the market.
|Transmeta's Crusoe processors will power new sub-microcomputers,
such as OQO's Ultra Portable Computer, a form factor that's as small as
a PDA, but which OQO claims can replace a full-featured laptop. (Photo:
Chipmaker Transmeta displayed several tablet and small-form factor laptops,
including one unit boasting an enormous 11-hour battery life-enough for a transcontinental
flight. Transmeta's Crusoe processors are small, require very little power,
generate almost no heat and are fully x86 compatible, meaning they run Windows
XP with ease. Transmeta also showed designs for the OQO, a sub-micro computer
about the size of an iPaq and fully capable of running Windows XP. Talk about
In the datacenter, Transmeta introduced a new motherboard reference design
for blade servers, which was developed in conjunction with HP. By using Transmeta's
experience with small form factors, low power consumption and low heat, the
two companies are developing blade computers that can be stacked into extremely
high-density configurations, making high-density terminal servers and major
server consolidation easier than ever.
Tasty IT Tidbits
The DVD+RW Alliance was on hand, pushing their alternative +R and +RW formats.
Plenty of manufacturers supporting the DVD Forum's "official" -R and
-RW formats were also present, meaning devices like Pioneer's latest DVD-RW/+RW
units are probably the best buys, since they cover all bases. Dozens of manufacturers
at the show were pushing SD, XD, MMC, and CF media, with signs that price drops
are forthcoming in these popular formats. Makers of USB flash drives were also
on hand, pitching larger sizes-up to 4GB in one case-and lower prices. Finally,
everyone had flat screens. Dell's even jumped into the market in light of rival
Gateway's success in plasma screens.
Get Wire(lessed) Up!
Wireless, wireless, wireless, and tiny, tiny, tiny were the watchwords. Everyone
had something smaller than last year's model (except flat screen TVs, which
were all bigger), and almost everything has wireless capabilities; even, I believe,
the Windows Embedded sewing machine (I am not making this up) and bread maker.
More than 100,000 attendees showed up, meaning technology is definitely not
dead or dying, and manufacturers were bullish about their prospects for the
[Note: A short, downloadable video report of this month's CES 2004 Digital
Experience event is available on Don Jones' BrainStorm page at http://my.braincore.net
With more than fifteen years of IT experience, Don Jones is one of the world’s leading experts on the Microsoft business technology platform. He’s the author of more than 35 books, including Windows PowerShell: TFM, Windows Administrator’s Scripting Toolkit, VBScript WMI and ADSI Unleashed, PHP-Nuke Garage, Special Edition Using Commerce Server 2002, Definitive Guide to SQL Server Performance Optimization, and many more. Don is a top-rated and in-demand speaker and serves on the advisory board for TechMentor. He is an accomplished IT journalist with features and monthly columns in Microsoft TechNet Magazine, Redmond Magazine, and on Web sites such as TechTarget and MCPMag.com. Don is also a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s prestigious Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award, and is the Editor-in-Chief for Realtime Publishers.