CES 2009: Some Gadgets Missed the Mark

We wonder who's going to want bad Wii wannabes, a zillion iPhone cases, out-of-date MP3 players, e-cigarettes, and other oddities that we found at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show.

Nintendo Wii Wannabes

I love the International Gateway section of CES, where more than 800 exotic exhibitors seek U.S. distributors for their under-the-radar gadgets. It’s discouraging, though, to see several Nintendo Wii clones (complete with motion controllers) that you could almost mistake for the real thing--until you see the crappy-looking games on offer, that is. --Danny Allen

Gracenote's Scary CarStars Music Recommendations

Gracenote's new CarStars in-car entertainment system integrates celebrity images and voices into a driver's music collection. Personally, I can't think of anything more terrifying than trying to drive while knowing that at any moment Elton John or Lil Wayne may pop up out of nowhere and start blurting out song recommendations. --Ginny Mies

Portable Blu-ray on a Tiny Screen?

The appeal of Panasonic's new DMP-B15 portable Blu-ray player is lost on me. Even if you have a bunch of Blu-ray discs, the DMP-B15's 8.9-inch, 1024-by-600-pixel resolution screen kinda defeats the purpose of high-def movies. I'd rather download or rip movies to my netbook, or just use a regular el cheapo portable DVD player. --Danny Allen

iPod/iPhone Case Overload

I think some vendors are getting a bit carried away on the iPhone wrapper front. It felt like there were a lot more cases on display at CES 2009 than there were iPhones--and there were quite a few of those. --Yardena Arar

Sony Vaio P: The P Could Stand for "Pain"--Eye Pain

The most impressive and the most aggravating aspect of the Sony Vaio P netbook must be its incredibly high resolution. Though text and images look sharp and crisp, they're really, really tiny. A scaled-up interface would do the Vaio P wonders. In general, resolution independence--where on-screen interfaces aren't tied to pixel count--can't come soon enough. --Nick Mediati

Don’t Grab the CastGrabber

Maybe I'm not the target audience, but I don't see the need for the CastGrabber, a device that loads your latest podcasts onto an MP3 player without the intervention of a PC. Lots of media management apps for PCs can automatically update your podcast subscriptions. The whole process seldom takes more than a few minutes, and it requires virtually no user attention. So why would you pay $130 for a butt-ugly piece of plastic that will just add to the clutter in your house? --Edward N. Albro

Palm's and LG's Hands-Off Demos

What's the point of demoing a phone at a show if you won't allow your audience to touch it? Palm and LG were far too protective of their newest phones, the Palm Pre (shown above) and the LG GD90 wristwatch phone, respectively. The vendors wouldn't give editors any hands-on time with these devices. Has everyone caught the Apple super-secrecy bug? --Ginny Mies

Health E-Cigarette?

I get the marketing concept: Smoking is a major health issue around the world, so a rechargeable cigarette-style atomizing device that has no tar, smoke, or smell is a great idea for people who are looking to kick the habit. But on a practical level, it makes about as much sense to me as decaf coffee. Now, where are my nicotine patches? --Danny Allen

It Lights Up! Why Does It Light Up?

MSI's U120 netbook features a trackpad that lights up. MSI claims that this feature makes the machine easier to use at night. Nice of them to be concerned, except that I usually have more trouble using a keyboard in the dark than a trackpad. Why not a more practical light for the keyboard instead? --Nick Mediati

Framed Posters Are Not Electronic!

Every year I go to CES--the Consumer ELECTRONICS Show--and I see at least one booth packed with hundreds of framed posters, photographs, and memorabilia. One question: Why?

Framed posters are not by their nature electronic, and any attempt to introduce electricity to a poster itself is an invitation to fiery disaster. So how about the poster sellers just sit this one out and give us more room to maneuver around the sociopaths who try to ride Segways in a jammed convention center. (Don’t get me started on that one.) --Edward N. Albro

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For a look at what we thought was the best of CES 2009.

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