How to See Past the CES 2010 Hype Machine

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The 2010 Vegas Gadgetfest is winding down today, and I'm sure all the cabbies, blackjack dealers, and strippers are breathing a sigh of relief. (CES attendees -- and geeks in general -- don't do much gambling and are notoriously lousy tippers, or so I've been told.)

As always, CES is one enormous hype factory. Its primary purpose these days seems to be getting consumers all hot and bothered about some whizzy new technology. This year CES is agog with talk of Web tablets and Android-based phones like the Google Nexus One and the Motorola Backflip. (I also hear TechCrunch will be introducing Arrington 2.0, but I'm not sure I believe that.)

Of course, easily a third of the stuff that gets the most attention never materializes, or if it does show up, it isn't nearly as impressive in the wild. So I thought I'd step back and take a look at what CES was supposed to bring us last year and how well it fared. (The Retrevo shopping engine, surprisingly enough, also has a pretty good look at CES '09.)

Here are some of the things people were gushing about after last year's CES, and what happened to them:

The Palm Pre: Arguably the biggest story to come out of last year's confab, the Pre arrived to mostly glowing reviews last June, followed by her cute little sister, the Pixi, in December. But like a Hollywood child star, she's already looking ridden hard and put away wet, surpassed by sexier Droid and Nexus handsets. The deal with Verizon and newly announced "Plus" versions of each don't do much to change that. With everyone and their dog now coming out with smartphones and app stores, the prospects for Palm's resurrection look even dimmer than they did a year ago.

Windows 7: Last year Ballmer's keynote was all about Windows 7, and this year his keynote was, well, mostly about Windows 7. But heck -- for the first time in recent memory, a new Windows release a) actually arrived when it was supposed to, and b) got a pretty favorable response from reviewers and users alike. So put this one in the winners circle for CES.

LED TVs: Superthin flat panels using LEDs instead of fluorescent lights for backlighting were all over the place in 2009 -- Samsung, LG, Sony, heck even Vizio came out with one. They consume roughly 40 percent less electricity too, making them one of the few "green technologies" to actually have an impact.

Green technology: Speaking of which, 2009 was going to be the year consumer electronics went all Al Gore on us. Aside from a handful of eco-conscious products like Samsung's Reclaim cell phone (made from corn and recycled materials) and those LED TVs, it really didn't happen. Am I wrong?

OLED TVs: The next generation of ooh-I-want-that displays were slated to start hitting retail shelves some time last year. Didn't really happen, though they have started popping up on smaller screens, like the Zune HD and the Google Nexus One. Maybe in 2011. Would you believe 2012?

Cool DVRs: Smart set-top boxes like EchoStar's Sling-loaded DVR were supposed to give TiVo a run for its money (though mostly pocket change these days), combining a Dish Networks HD video recorder with Sling's place-shifting tech. Well, guess what Dish Network is showing off at this year's CES? Yes, the very same box, which is now slated to appear in Q2 2010. Call me when you see one actually for sale.

Smartphone projectors. These mini-projectors connect to your cell and put an entire PowerPoint presentation in your pocket. Quick show of hands: Anybody ever see one of these presentations? Anyone at all?

The Zune phone: Uh, yeah. According to Wired (circa December 2008), the Zune phone was "the real deal" and going to be announced by The Mad Ballmer at his CES 09 keynote. I think we all know how that's turned out. But maybe next year...

This story, "How to See Past the CES 2010 Hype Machine" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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