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CONSUMER ELECTRONIC SHOW IN LAS VEGAS SHOWCASES NEW TECHNOLOGIES
A reporter stands in front of a camera and begins, "Today, live from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada we're going to look at a telephone built into a wristwatch, a memory module the size of a quarter which holds 500 MB of storage, a device that will obsolete your VCR, home networking systems, and two way satellite access to the Web from your home, and we’ll hear hints from Bill Gates about the next Windows operating system. Stay tuned!"
Most people hear about The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) from segments like these, broadcast live from the convention floor.
The Consumer Electronics Show, held early in January, is an annual showcase for the hottest consumer technologies. The show is sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association. With more than 1,800 companies exhibiting in 1.2 million square feet of exhibit space, CES is the largest consumer electronics trade show in the world.
Industry professionals numbering more than 110,000 from 125 countries attended the 2001 show. CES also draws more than 20,000 non-retail corporate buyers, financial/market analysts, content providers and creators, broadband developers and government officials.
"The consumer technology industry is a $93 billion business in the U.S. alone, and most of the business starts at CES every year," said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO for the Consumer Electronics Association. "Not only is CES the launch pad for all major consumer technologies such as a satellite radio, next generation digital television (DTV), interactive set-top boxes and wireless information devices, the show is a meeting place for executives throughout the world involved in consumer technology hardware, content and delivery systems." (See side bar #1.)
High tech "toys" are a major reason people enjoy CES. As a launching pad for electronic innovation, CES is the place to be for the latest and greatest in new and emerging technologies.
According to Consumer Electronics Association figures, sales of consumer electronics goods from manufacturers to dealers will surpass $95.6 billion in 2001.
"The spectacular growth in sales of consumer electronics this year is due in large part to the wide variety of products made possible by digital technology," said Shapiro. "Now, more than ever, manufacturers are offering customizable products to facilitate consumers’ lifestyles and workstyles. The industry will continue to grow as consumers want products that suit their active lives."
BUSINESS IS BOOMING IN CONSUMER ELECTRONICS
The effect of digital technologies on the growth of the consumer electronics industry can be seen in virtually all product categories, with such varied products as digital cameras, DVD players, MP3 players, wireless telephones and digital cameras each having strong growth figures in their respective categories.
Home information products have grown substantially as a result of the digital revolution. Home information technologies allow consumers to work when, where, and how they want. This category, according to the Consumer Electronic Association’s new estimates, will total sales of more than $39 billion in 2001.
Mobile electronics have also been revolutionized by digital technology, improving the ease with which consumers can stay in touch with friends and family and at the same time access news and entertainment while they’re on the go. Sales involving mobile electronics, wireless phones producing the biggest share, are projected to reach $10.5 billion in 2001, an 80% increase over their performance in 2000.
In video, digital televisions, camcorders, personal video recorders, and DVD players are expected to lead the field. Video products are popular with consumers, and sales are expected to reach $20.3 billion in 2001.
One video product in particular has far exceeded sales expectations. In 1999, digital versatile disc (DVD) players became the fastest selling product in the history of consumer electronics with more than 4 million units sold during the year. In 2000, that number rose to more than $8.2 million. Sales for 2001 are projected to reach $12.5 million.
WEIGHING IN WITH THE CEOs
CRAIG BARRETT, Intel
Intel president and CEO Craig Barrett has a vision for the evolving role of the PC in consumers' lives. Surrounded by a myriad of Intel-powered consumer electronics devices, he demonstrated how powerful new chip technology will enable the PC to stand at the center of a "digital universe."
During a lively 60 minute presentation, Barrett clarified how new chip technology has enabled the PC to evolve from a stand-alone device into the "central nervous system for the entertainment system of the home." Combining devices like a wireless phone/personal digital assistant and a Web tablet, Barrett demonstrated how peripheral gear can empower consumers as they gather, process, manipulate and store the data that has become an integral part of their active lives.
"The PC is the digital brain, capturing information in one place and delivering it in another," Barrett said, "and the value of the PC to the user grows exponentially as we have more tools connected to the PC."
CARL YANKOWSKI, Palm
Palm's CEO, Carl Yankowski, drove his own vintage blue Volkswagen Beetle onto the stage, a flashy beginning to CES’s keynote address.
"The VW was symbolic of a reliable design and technology that was easy to use and adopted by the masses," Yankowski said, likening his company's PDA with the easy-to-use and reliable design of the Volkswagen.
"Handheld computing has changed the way we work and live," he said. "How many of us can honestly say that there is a strict delineation of our work and personal lives? The handheld will do for computing what the Walkman did for music."
According to Yankowski, in contrast with PCs and notebook computers, "handhelds are triumphing because the computer industry obsessed over microprocessor speeds and myriad functionalities that eclipsed the daily needs of ordinary people."
He used the example of how car dashboards, which have gone relatively unchanged, hide the numerous processors and components that run a car, presenting drivers with easy-to-use buttons. That simplicity and transparent technology resonates with consumers, said Yankowski, and that is the mind-set of Palm.
Palm OS 4.0 (expected soon) will incorporate telephony, e-mail and instant messaging. Palm OS 5.0, which is in development, will enable multimedia, music, video and gaming in 16-bit color.
Future Palms will be able to store credit card information, accessible via a personal identification number, for in-store purchasing.
BILL GATES, Microsoft
Microsoft’s Bill Gates invoked the concept of "extreme entertainment" and the digital lifestyle. "Consumer experiences change when we put them in a digital form," he said, and "extreme entertainment is a digital lifestyle that changes media itself." Gates explained this concept by demonstrating products that use the power of the PC to promote flexibility in the ways we access, use and store information in our daily lives.
In demonstrating "Whistler," the next version of Microsoft's popular Windows operating system, Gates described his concept of the "extended PC." It’s "a machine," he claims, "that you will be leaning on 24 hours a day." It is always on, a warehouse for content that it distributes to the rest of the home via any number of different networks.
Whistler software will be very consumer oriented, very friendly at home. Users can be "on" 24 hours a day and still get the same reliability and durability they expect from traditional consumer electronics devices.
Gates concluded his presentation by unveiling Xbox, Microsoft's new gaming console. Microsoft expects the Xbox, a new venture, to be a tremendous success in the consumer marketplace. Touted as a "broadband gaming device," the deck has four-game ports, can support HDTV, and includes an Ethernet connection. It will be available "later this year."
"The PC's future is as a digital media center," Gates said. "Control has to follow the user, not the PC. The concept has to be, you get back into control, not just when you're on your PC."
For Gates, the future of the PC and of Windows in the home will move beyond traditional "productivity" into PC activity centers emphasizing photos, music, video, games and communication.
So far, Gates emphasized, "the explosion of the PC in the workplace has been with text. But now there’s a return to the original dream that this is a device for all."
This sentiment, that the PC will be a "device for all," brings us back to the reporter on the CES convention floor, trying hard to communicate the scope of all the remarkable gadgets on or just over the horizon.
WELCOME TO THE DIGITAL AGE
The new digital age will reshape the way we interact with and manipulate all forms of digital information.
Digital Video Recorder (DVR) technology will change the way many schedule and view broadcast, cable and satellite dish programming. DVR devices record television programming to a hard disc drive instead of traditional videotape.
One such device is called TiVo. TiVo can store up to 30 hours of recorded material and it updates its programming daily via telephone. The program listings appear on your TV screen and can be selected for recording with the push of a button.
When you want to watch a program you’ve recorded, one button brings up a listing of titles and times. You can then freely select which program you would like to watch. There’s no more fast forwarding through hours of tape to find your show.
With TiVo the user can even control live TV. If you’re watching a program and the phone rings, you can push the pause button on the TiVo remote and the program automatically starts recording to the disk drive. When you return from the phone call, you can simply push play and your program continues at the point you left off. A push of the resume buttons instantly catches you up to the live broadcast.
Memory sticks have revolutionized a variety of digital applications. The common capacities for today's memory sticks are either 32, 64 or 128 MB. DataPlay, Inc. has unveiled a new digital media that will hold 250MB on a single-sided and 500MB on a double-sided micro-optical disc. The discs will support both user recorded and secure pre-recorded content on the same media.
Using new high quality compression technology, DataPlay digital media can hold up to 11 hours of music or combinations of music, images, video, documents, software and other digital content on a single disc. The blank discs will retail between $5 and $12.
Home networking will also join the revolution. Home networking systems linked to a high speed broadband Internet connection will be the key that unlocks improved functionality across a variety of media, allowing the user to take advantage of all the new products.
2Wire, Inc. is offering a product that will enable people to easily network their homes using existing telephone wiring. 2Wire’s HomePortal 100 turns your broadband modem into an intelligent residential gateway. By simply plugging HomePortal 100 into your broadband modem and any telephone jack, all telephone jacks become active, high-speed links to the Internet, allowing multiple computers in your home to use the highband connection simultaneously.
Are you away from home and want to check in? Try a product like BeAtHome, which provides Internet-based home automation and home security. Capturing data from around the home from various wireless devices—heating controls, window sensors, medical monitors, smoke and CO detectors, cameras, etc.—BeAtHome collects information where you can control it from a private web site.
Each year, an awards ceremony recognizes the best designed and engineered products in various categories represented at the show. These prestigious awards are an opportunity for manufacturers and developers to have their products judged by a preeminent panel of journalists, designers and engineers. The winning products are showcased at the 2001 international CES. Twenty judges are assigned to various product categories. Product evaluations are based on weighted criteria, including value to users, aesthetics, contributions to the quality of life, innovative qualities, and overall excellence. This year there were over 600 entries. (See SIDEBAR below for the winners.)
Category / Product Name / Company
Accessories / Pronto Pro / Philips Consumer Electronics
Audio / Duo-ARIA / Digisette, LLC
Blank Media / DataPlay / Digital Media DataPlay Inc.
Computer Hardware/Software / Crusoe Smart Microprocessor / Transmeta Corp.
Digital Imaging / CD-R Mavica / Sony Electronics
Electronic Gaming / Shark MX / InterAct Accessories Inc. (A Recoton Company)
Home Appliances / Family-Size Microwave Oven with Inverter Technology / Panasonic Consumer Electronics Co.
Home Data Networking / HomePortal / 2Wire Inc.
Integrated Home Systems / Isys Touchpanel Control System / Crestron Electronics Inc.
Mobile Electronics / Remote Diagnostic Digital Display Kit / Phoenix Gold International Inc.
Mobile Office / Lapstation / Intrigo Inc.
Office Equipment / CD Autoloader / IntelliTouch
Online/Internet / Kerbango Internet Radio / 3Com Corp.
Personal Electronics (tie) / Satellite Navi / Casio Inc.
Personal Electronics (tie) / Wrist Camera Watch / Casio Inc.
Retail Resource / How2TV Instruction Pac / How2TV Inc.
Satellite Systems / DIRECTV Receiver with TiVo / TiVo
Telephones / Parafone / Arkon Networks Inc.
Video / Digital Light Processing Technology-Based HDTV / Panasonic Consumer Electronics Co.
Wireless Communications / Timeport 270 / Motorola
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