Consumer Electronics Show

The 2006 Consumer Electronic Show didn't disappoint this year with a whole new assortment of gadgets and gizmos, many beyond our wildest dreams. Held from the 5th to 8th of January in Las Vegas, the world's largest consumer electronic tradeshow introduced thousands of new products from more than 2,500 exhibitors to 150,000 attendees from 110 countries.

What new and exciting innovations were introduced this year? Lots. Plus a new spin on some older products. Visitors to the tradeshow found most product launches involved how we access information, watch movies, listen to music, view photos and of course, have fun!

Digital video was huge with next generation, high definition DVD players on display, while new generation cable boxes that store high-definition content wowed audiences. Satellite TV provider DirectTV announced an agreement to make set-top boxes that trade content with Windows Media Centre PCs. On the television note IPTV, or internet protocol TV, was billed as the future of television. This means internet-based TV services from your laptop or PC.

To watch TV, bigger and less expensive flat screen televisions were a real hit, while Panasonic displayed its massive 103 inch (262cm) flat screen. Phillips displayed a LCD screen that rolled up like a window shade.

Sony's displayed its electronic book. The Sony Reader is the size of a paperback novel and stores hundreds of books. Users open the cover to see electronic 'paper', virtually undistinguishable from the real thing, display book content one page at a time. It's expected to retail somewhere between US$300 and US$400 and is due for release in the US this April.

One the wackier side of things Samsung displayed a washing machine that uses bits of silver to help disinfect clothes while another vendor showed off a stationary bike where exercisers have to pedal at a certain speed to keep the volume of their TV at a audible level.

But what seemed to impress more than the gadgets themselves was the 350 big-name CES keynote speakers ranging from Microsoft's Bill Gates to Sony's CEO Howard Stringer to Google co-founder Larry Page. Even Tom Hanks, Robin Williams and Justin Timberlake made cameo appearances during speaker sessions.

Bill Gates opened the entire Consumer Electronics Show to a packed crowd, stressing that Microsoft wants to do more than make sure that its devices are in every office, home, mobile phone and car--he also wants to make sure that they are all seamlessly and easily networked. Technology, according to Gates, will continue to make people's lives simpler and more enjoyable.

Gates showcased for the first time some of the most interesting consumer aspects of Windows Vista--Microsoft's follow-up to Windows XP. Expected to be released before the end of 2006, the next generation operating system features a 3-D user interface with translucent windows that let users see what other windows are running on the machine. Vista will also feature a digital archiving system that lets users store, search and edit photos.

With new advanced features, it seems that Vista represents Microsoft trying to make the PC the centrepiece of the digital home. As Gates predicted in his address, rich media from movies to games will increasingly be available over a wide range of networked devices that will be easy to use. This year, according to Gates is the year of digital media going mainstream.

Speaking on more than just Vista, Gates stressed Microsoft's desire to power a multitude of devices ranging from smart mobile phones to the new gaming console, Xbox 360. And he did talk about some more 'out there' innovations. One of them was the future office monitor. Imagine a large transparent sheet of glass that covers an entire desk, taking up your whole field of vision. To move things on the desk you touch them and move them around. Wow!

In an equally popular session, Google co-founder Larry Page gave the closing CES keynote address. As Internetrix has mentioned before, Google is one of the most innovative companies of the last decade. Page's presentation made this statement even truer.

In keeping with the digital content, Page launched a beta version of Google Video, a video and television store that makes content available for download 24/7. Page also spoke of GooglePack--a free collection of essential software that includes Google initiatives such as Google Earth and Google Desktop as well as Mozilla Firefox, Norton Antivirus, Adobe Reader and more.

Other more 'down the road' Google projects Page explained included a Volkswagen with a prototype Google dashboard and cameras that can trade pictures without going to a computer. Google's also working on a $100 computer with MIT to allow more people to have internet access as he stated only 15 percent of the world currently uses the internet.

With all this technology on display, it begs the question of what CES 2007 will bring.

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