We're just back from the consumer electronics extravaganza in Las Vegas where we saw some amazing new gadgets and gear including new TVs, tablets, smartphones and new high tech automobiles.
Much of the technology we saw may not be available for some time (if at all) but we did see some trends that will sooner or later make many of your high tech possessions obsolete.
Apple products are deeply entrenched in the creative world. Both Mac and iOS-based devices are the common tools among graphic designers, artists, music producers and composers, and yes, even journalists. (Especially journalists, don't even get me started.)
At CES 2012 this week, Samsung made a major appeal to "creatives" with the new Galaxy Note mini-tablet. In a large booth in a hallway outside of the show floor, Samsung set up caricature artists with Galaxy Notes, who were drawing passers by as musicians played in the background, using the Galaxy Note and the apps touchOSC and TouchDAW as a part of their performance gear.
Notebook PCs aren't the only thing getting slimmed down to razor-thin profiles in 2012. This year, there will be at least three Android-powered smartphones vying for consumer interest by being as thin as possible. So thin, in fact, that each calls itself the thinnest.
This trend started with the Motorola Droid RAZR in the fourth quarter of 2011, which Motorola Mobility CEO Sanjay Jha said was the thinnest smartphone on the market.
At the International Consumer Electronics Show 2012 in Las Vegas this week, Finnish mobile phone leader Nokia debuted the Lumia 900, its first smartphone designed specifically for the United States market. We got to play with it quite a bit, and here's a runthrough of the device's strong points.
The Lumia 900 follows the same design ethic as the N9 and Lumia 800, with a single piece polycarbonate body, gently rounded sides and blunted top and bottom edges. Nokia has equipped the device with all the features that U.S. media and consumers complained were missing in the N9 and 800: 4G LTE connectivity, larger screen size, and a forward-facing camera.
While Samsung cut an imposing figure at the International Consumer Electronics Show 2012 with its huge flashy booth, the Korean electronics company managed to quietly display its upcoming second-generation Chrome OS devices without attracting tons of attention.
These new Chrome OS products include an updated Series 5 Chromebook which has 2GB of RAM, a 16GB SSD and a moderately faster CPU. It retains the smooth and ergonomic feel of the first generation Chromebook, but unfortunately also retains that device's somewhat cheap and plasticky feel. Samsung said the price will also remain the same.
Sprint's Network Vision upgrade to LTE won't be a top-down change, where only flagship devices will be able to hook up to the high speed network, among the carrier's first LTE devices will be the slightly cheaper, slightly less flashy LG Viper 4G.
The device is light and smallish (at least when compared to Sprint's flagship LTE phone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus,) and its primary selling points are its high recyclability and low energy footprint. While these qualities rarely prove to be majorly attractive to consumers, it's still nice to have them checked off when looking at new devices.
Transportation is not something we generally cover here on BetaNews, but sometimes a product will slip through our defenses and end up on the front page because it is interesting, novel, broadly applicable, or simply charming.
Now, Inventec deals in some hokey re-inventions of user-propelled transportation devices: scooters, skates, hydrofoils, and such. Solowheel is a re-invention of the Segway, which is itself a very hokey vehicle, but built on compelling gyroscopic balancing technology and eco-friendly energy consumption.
Like Kodak, film company Polaroid was wrecked by the gradual takeover of digital cameras and demolished by the smartphone taking over the role of the casual/disposable point and shoot.
So Polaroid has embraced Android, and released what is effectively a super high megapixel smartphone without all that pesky communications gear.
I'm a fan of Windows Phone and its glance-and-go concept, and Microsoft has made lots of noise at Consumer Electronics Show 2012 about the future. Say, how's that "Get smoked by Windows Phone" competition going, anyway?
But somebody is blowing smoke about how grand will be Nokia Windows Phone sales this year. Thirty-seven million? Cough. Cough. iPhone may have reached that number during holiday quarter 2011. Besides, it's pitiful compared to the Nokia we all used to know.
I've been saying it for almost three years now...the iOS app ecosystem has truly changed the music industry. Nearly everything you needed to do in order to be a working musician you could do in some way with your iPhone/iPod/iPad.
And that was before the core MIDI spec was rolled out.
With its planned merger with AT&T now dead, T-Mobile USA must find ways forward to continue as a viable entity. The company late Tuesday announced that it had completed HSPA+ network upgrades in new markets, further expanding its "4G" footprint. That said, it appears in no rush to move to 4G.
T-Mobile now offers 42Mbps HSPA+ in 175 of its markets, covering an estimated 186 million people. Its slower 21Mbps HSPA+ service has also expanded, now covering 217 markets. This will likely widen shortly, as the carrier receives spectrum due as part of the merger breakup with AT&T -- but it first must gain regulatory approval.
Leading PC chipmaker Intel shook the Consumer Electronics show on Monday with the announcement that its Atom processors will be shipping in Android-based smartphones by Motorola and Lenovo in the second half of the year.
“The best of Intel computing is coming to smartphones,” said Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini in a statement on Monday. “Our efforts with Lenovo and Motorola Mobility will help to establish Intel processors in smartphones and provide a solid foundation from which to build in 2012 and into the future.”
As expected, Dell has joined the ultrabook foray, announcing the XPS 13 at Consumer Electronics Show 2012. Thin and lights aren't new for Dell, but joining the announce-now-and-ship-later CES crowd is disappointing. As a build-to-order maker, Dell is known for shipping right away. If you want an XPS 13, however, the Round Rock, Texas PC maker will make you wait until the "end of February".
The XPS 13 inherits from its predecessors, like the XPS 14: The screen is edge-to-edge, allowing for a larger display in a smaller enclosure. Dell boasts a 13.3-inch screen in the size of an 11.6-inch portable, claiming the frameless display reduces XPS 13's footprint by 15 percent compared to comparable 13.3-inch laptops. Looking at the product photo, I don't see how the screen is any more frameless than Apple's MacBook Air.
Well, here's a strange Consumer Electronics Show announcement. Typically participants tout what products they will release. Sony has taken a different tack, announcing what's not coming.
The consumer electronics giant is sticking to its guns, and maintains that PlayStation 3 is a product with a 10-year life cycle. If you were hoping to see the PS4 at E3 this year, don't hold your breath. Former video game chief and now Sony chairman Kazuo Hirai told reporters at a roundtable discussion at CES that the company will not unveil a new console at the yearly conference.
Last week, when Roku debuted the Smart Stick, essentially a set-top-box in a USB stick form factor, I made a point to seek out products at the Consumer Electronics Show that utilize the Mobile High-definition Link (MHL) standard that the Roku Smart Stick uses. Fortunately, I found representatives from the MHL Consortium who were more than happy to show how easy it is to connect an Android device to an MHL-compatibile television, and witness the uncompressed MHL experience first hand.
As of right now, there are about 50 devices (smartphones, televisions, tablets, etc) that support MHL; with the majority of them coming from South Korean CE leader Samsung.