Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Highlights from CES Unveiled...

Most overlooked development which will change your world: SD Association is showing prototypes of SD cards using SDXC format (announced last year), breaking through the previous 32 GB limitation of SDHC. While initial shipments will be at 64 GB, the SDXC specification supports up to 2 TB--that's right, terabytes, allowing storage of 100 high definition movies on a memory card, even in the ultra-compact microSDXC format. Sure, devices will need to incorporate support for SDXC, which won't happen overnight, but the timeframe to incorporate SDHC into still cameras was reasonable; look for SDXC devices to hit shelves later this year.

Runner-up: SuperSpeed USB (USB 3.0), whose 5 gb/s signaling rate will allow mega-fast data transfer between devices--picture downloading 8 GB of photos from a still camera in 20 seconds. 17 products have already achieved compliance and certification for SuperSpeed USB, many of which were on demo at Unveiled. And yeah, they were fast.

Coolest living room industrial design: D-Link, although they were largely ignored the moment that attendees realized that the Boxee Box was D-Link's main (hell, maybe only) demo. I was making one final walk around when @avneron spotted me, grabbing me to have @academik show me the box and the keyboard. I hadn't seen the box in person; now that I have, it's grown on me. Growing on me like a weed was the remote, which is sweet. Put a four row QWERTY keyboard on the back of the remote, and a four-way navigation ring on the front, and you have the coolest remote I've seen in a long time. Not only are the boxee team changing the face of television, they're going to put a dent into the way we navigate TV, too.

Coolest living room capabilities: Three-way tie: The Boxee Box (to which I'm a little partial, as a long-time boxee user on the Mac Mini); Popbox; and the LaCie LaCinema Mini HD. Syabas has made huge strides with the user interface on the Popbox; the older Popcorn Hour box UIs kind of blew chunks. While still not up to snuff with the Moxi UI, they're making great progress--including the addition of one of Moxi's former UI designers to the Syabas team. The Boxee Box and Popbox are both geared primarily towards media streaming over the Internet, although the Popbox also has a DLNA stack for displaying content streamed from a DLNA server. The LaCinema HD is a bit schizophrenic--it can function as a DLNA media server or media player, meaning that it can sit in the back of your network and serve content, or sit up front and play out to your TV (which would be a more likely usage scenario for me). I expect to get my hands on review units from boxee, Popbox, and LaCie, so I'll let you know how they feel. I'll also soon be shaking down the new Promise DS4600, which is a four bay, RAID5 streamer.

Most promising Bluetooth headset: Bluetrek's Crescendo. With an impressive list of capabilities, could this be the device which finally unseats the Jawbone from my ear? The Crescendo is extremely light, comfortable, boasts dual-microphone noise canceling, and claims its voice command interface will support better than 95% of American's voices and accents. THAT, I'll believe when I see. Long time readers know that I've put the hurt on quite a few Bluetooth headsets over the last four or five years; many contenders and pretenders have tried to knock the Jawbone off my ear. All have failed. Maybe the Crescendo will be a legitimate threat...we'll know once they get a review unit out to me.

In the second part of my CES Unveiled highlights, we'll look at 3DTV, computing platforms, and wireless power...

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