CES, ET Review
by Leslie Ellis // January 21 2008
For industry techies, the New Year again commenced with a week of sensory overload, followed by a half-week of sensory under-load.
The sensory overload came from the annual Consumer Electronics Show, which served up its usual dosage of the cool, the relevant, and the just-plain-weird. The under-load came from the hushed, laptop-lit room that was the SCTE’s annual Conference on Emerging Technologies, in Los Angeles.
This week’s translation will serve as the Cliff’s Notes to both events.
The Cool (& the Weird) at CES
Shortlist to the cool at this year’s CES: The profusion of skinny, wall-mounted HDTVs, svelting in at less than an inch thick. The organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays, magnificently rich in color, and about the size of a small laptop screen. (Three years ago, the biggest was matchbook-sized.)
Also cool: Casio’s combo still/motion camera, the EXF-1. Sandisk’s combo video memory stick / remote control, branded “Sansa” — sort of a video iPod without the screen.
As for just-plain-weird, nothing came close to the his/her toilet seat nightlight of the 2003 CES — green when the seat is in sitting position, red when it’s not. But the robotic beer cooler turned a few thirsty heads, as did the Swarovski crystal pendant, which doubles as a 1 Gigabyte USB memory stick. (Just a gig, though, guys?)
Emerging Tech Highlights
Jason Gaedtke, newly named chief scientist at CableLabs, topped my list of tell-me-more tech presenters at last week’s “E.T.” (Emerging Tech) conference. His paper: “Semantic Web: Cable Finds New Meaning.”
Gaedtke is a reliable guide through the brain-bending landscape of web video technologies, also known as “Web 3.0” (“Although that’s more of a marketing term,” Gaedtke noted.)
On his short list of things to start learning: AJAX, a programming technique for Web pages that allows an element on the page to be refreshed interactively, without having to re-load the entire screen. ATOM, a syndication technique for user-generated video. Several others. (Get the Proceedings on DVD, but only if you’re into immersion learning.)
Other topics of interest at this year’s E.T.: A look at emerging set-top trends, delivered by S-A/Cisco’s VP/client architecture Ken Morse. Among them: Silicon integration, for single-chips that pack in seven or more individual processors; DVRs with 250 Gigabytes of storage by next year; much better graphics.
E.T. wouldn’t be E.T. without at least one example of impressively nerdy tech-speak. This year’s candidate: Harmonic’s “hecto-QAM,” which skipped many of us off to Wikipedia for a refresher on what the heck a “hecto” is. (Answer: Greek for 100.)
Similarly, CES wouldn’t be CES without a bit of unintended geek humor — like when the demo guy at Xstream Media, a satellite-based HDTV download service starting later this year, was asked if the service is like Netflix, without the U.S. mail element.
His reply: “That’s exactly kind of what we are.”
This column originally appeared in the Platforms section of Multichannel News.