CES 2006: Latest and Greatest Gadgets Head for Las Vegas
It's big, it's bustling, and it brings together more than 100,000 people and 300 companies for four days in the middle of the desert. The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicks off in Las Vegas on January 5, and this time it's all about high-definition, portable video, home networking, and fun.
Among the most eagerly awaited news from the show will be updates on the launch plans for both HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc optical disc formats. At CES 2005 the HD-DVD side promised players and movies within the year, but that timetable has now been pushed back to the first quarter of 2006. The Blu-ray Disc side hasn't yet committed to a launch schedule--but with Sony's PlayStation 3 (which will use the format) due to appear on the market in the first half of the year, the time until launch seems to be getting short.
CES attendees can expect to see lots of prototype players, and Pioneer has confirmed that it will be showing its first commercial Blu-ray Disc drive, a model for desktop personal computers, at CES.
Lots of gadgetry will be on display as well, some perhaps destined to become the next big thing and some likely to become technology trash. Among the products promised for the show are a book scanner that automatically turns pages after it scans them, a fuel cell charger that can provide hours of additional use to dead gadgets when you're away from a wall socket, a Bluetooth telephone handset compatible with Skype, and a 3D video technology that permits objects on screen to be viewed as normal images by people who don't have special glasses.
Intel's Viiv Platform
The two optical disc formats serve as a good example of what's happening in the high-definition television sector. While companies spent 2004 and 2005 talking about TV sets that would bring digital HDTV into living rooms, the focus is now shifting to high definition on other platforms.
Intel will use CES to launch its Viiv entertainment PC brand, a new Centrino-like combination of chips that all the usual players are likely to adopt quickly. Viiv brings together a dual-core chip, Windows XP Media Center Edition, and other high-end parts; it's the latest in a string of attempts to put the PC at the center of the home entertainment system.
The show will probably also be thick with portable media players. The ability to watch video on the move is nothing new, but people began to sit up and take notice only in 2005, when Apple Computer launched its iPod with video. Several companies have already begun promoting upcoming portable video players, but the devices will be useless without content.
While Hollywood pulls one way, trying to lock down content, devices makers are straining in the other direction, trying to free it. Consequently the show may showcase contrasting views on the future of personal entertainment.
March of the Gadgets
Like the buzz surrounding the industry it serves, International CES is getting bigger. This year, for the first time, the show not only occupies its usual home at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) but has expanded into the nearby Sands Exhibition Center. The expansion may prove a logistical hassle for attendees, who will have to navigate between the two centers, but organizers are surely hoping that the increase in size won't put CES on the path traveled by the now-defunct Comdex.
After running for years in the LVCC, Comdex expanded to the Sands and added companies despite visitors' complaints about the show's size and about problems related to getting into, out of, and around the city. Comdex held its last show in 2003 and was canceled in 2004 due to lack of interest.
Tom Krazit of IDG News Service contributed to this report.