Tuesday morning, CES opens the doors on a record 1.87 million square feet of exhibit space where about 20,000 new products will be announced. Microsoft won’t be among the exhibitors — for the first time in decades — but its presence will still be felt.
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For the first time in decades, the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas won’t open with a Microsoft executive sharing the company’s vision of the future.
Fans used to line up for hours to see Bill Gates open the show with a razzle-dazzle sermon and demonstration of cool new gadgets, a tradition that began in 1995. Gates would later wander the floor to see what creations other companies are bringing to stores and homes in the coming year.
Microsoft’s run ended last January when Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said farewell to the industry’s annual powwow.
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It’s odd that the divorce happened as Microsoft was gearing up to produce more consumer electronics and operate more retail stores, but the Redmond company decided it would rather put the effort into its own events and trade shows where it remains the lead dog.
Don’t feel too sorry for CES. It’s rebounding with Qualcomm Chief Executive Paul Jacobs, who will open this year’s show with a keynote address touting his company’s chips and technology, which are inside most of the world’s smartphones and tablets. Qualcomm is a cornerstone of today’s computing, similar to the way Microsoft was in 1995 and 2005.
Tuesday morning, CES opens the doors on a record 1.87 million square feet of exhibit space where about 20,000 new products will be announced. It’s the Vegas solstice, the longest days of the year, for the roughly 150,000 manufacturers, distributors, retailers and reporters (including this one) who make the trek.
Microsoft won’t be among the exhibitors, but its presence will still be felt, particularly in the booths of companies showing new PCs built on Windows 8.
Here’s a look at some of the gadgets and themes expected at this year’s show.
Targus Touch Pen for Windows 8: Among the thousands of new accessories for phones, tablets and PCs is this device, which enables “touch” gesture controls on laptops and PC monitors that don’t have touch screens. A receiver attaches to the side of the display and works with the “Touch Pen” stylus, which has a soft, bristle tip. It’s going on sale for $100 in the second quarter.
Amped Wireless RTA15: New and faster wireless technologies are behind many of the new products debuting at CES, including a new flavor of Wi-Fi called 802.11ac that can move data three to four times faster than current hardware. Amped Wireless will be among the first to market with 802.11ac routers and USB adapters, including the RTA15 dual-band router debuting at CES.
The router has three antennas, 10 power amplifiers, five gigabit Ethernet ports and a USB port for file sharing. Amped claims it can deliver gigabit speeds — 1 gigabit per second — in spaces up to 10,000 square feet.
RCA Mobile TV Tablet: Combine two of the biggest products at CES this year — TVs and tablets — and you get this 8-inch tablet TV from RCA. It may not have the new 4K ultrahigh-definition resolution that’s the next big thing for flat-panel TVs, but RCA’s model, at 1024 by 768 resolution, is still high def.
It has dual tuners and a built-in antenna to receive digital broadcast channels and video from the new Dyle mobile broadcast network, which is free through 2013 but may charge in the future. The $299 tablet runs Google’s Android software on a 1 gigahertz processor and has 8 gigabytes of storage memory. RCA claims its battery will last up to four hours in mobile TV mode or 10 when Web browsing.
Tecom MOCET Communicator: If your iPad is gathering dust on the coffee table or you’ve got a spare one lying around, perhaps it’s time to turn it into a phone. The Tecom MOCET Communicator is an iPad dock that functions as an advanced communications station. It uses the tablet to handle voice-over-Internet phone calls made with its handset, or through accessory wireless handsets.
The tablet can also be used to place video calls using apps such as FaceTime and Skype. Audio, music and videoconferencing are boosted by the dock’s three speakers and dual microphones. It goes on sale in a few weeks for $249.
G-Shock Bluetooth Low Energy Smart Watch: Wearable computing devices have arrived, including fitness sensors and goggles that display messages, maps and other web information. Watches that use Bluetooth radios to sync with your smartphone are a baby step into this realm.
Casio will be showing these $180 watches, which provide alerts when a call or email arrives on the wearer’s iPhone. Alerts can be dismissed by double-tapping the watch face. Alerts also sound if the phone gets too far from the watch, so it won’t be left behind.
The low-energy capability of Bluetooth 4.0 allows these features without draining the watch battery too much; Casio claims the battery will last two years if the Bluetooth is used 12 hours a day.
These devices come on the 10th anniversary of Gates’ unveiling of Microsoft Spot watches at CES. They didn’t need an iPhone; they displayed information that Microsoft delivered wirelessly over FM frequencies. The Spot devices never took off, though, and the content service was shut down last year.
All good things come to an end, I guess, except for the parade of gadgets at CES.
Brier Dudley’s column appears Mondays. Reach him at 206-515-5687 or firstname.lastname@example.org