The Consumer Electronics show was huge -- 1.5 million square feet of exhibitions, 130,000 people, thousands of products. My feet hurt, and I need a few days in a sensory-deprivation tank, but it was worth it. Gadget nirvana was once again a ton of fun. Here's a quick synopsis of trends, cool gear and some general observations:
If I had to pick a theme for the products on display, it would be improvements on existing technology. Walking the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center, there was no one product that screamed out "innovation." Instead I saw design and functionality changes that will make technology more appealing to the general public
LG 50-inch wireless Plasma
Many of us would love to have an art wall that includes a plasma TV. Problem is, you have a bunch of unsightly wires hanging down from your art. Or, if you take the concept really seriously, you have to cut holes and run cable in the wall. To combat this dilemma, LG announced a 50-inch plasma TV that has a wireless transmitter box. You plug all the cables into the transmitter and it sends content to the TV. Of course, you have to power the monitor, so you will have a power cable going to the plasma, but one black wire is a lot better than the rats nest that currently ties into most of our sets. No release date or price on the wireless plasma.
Biggest Plasma Prototype
Looks like Panasonic wins with its 103-incher. LG followed behind with a 102-inch model. Samsung showed off a similar behemoth last year. LG has the largest plasma TV that's actually available for purchase. Its 7-inch HDTV plasma was gorgeous; it boasts 1080p resolutions, which is geek-speak for the highest in high-def resolution. $70,000, available spring 2006.
Cell phone upgrades
The Palm Treo 650 has been wildly popular with users. This smart phone can be used for e-mail, text messaging, Web browsing and -- oh, yeah -- it's a pretty good phone. The 650 ran on the Palm operating system, a mature and functional operating system that got its start on PDAs. For the 700 series, Palm has partnered with Microsoft, running the Windows Mobile operating system on the Palm hardware. The partnership is a little strange, considering the years of rivalry, but Palm needed Microsoft to help it crack the corporate phone market. For the consumer, the 700w is a nice phone and the Windows OS? It sure makes opening e-mail attachments easier.
Available through Verizon: $400 with a two-year commitment.
BlackBerry knockoff but thinner
Motorola announced its Moto-Q cell phone. The Q is also in the smart-phone category: It does e-mail, text messaging, takes pictures, browses the Internet and more. The form factor looks a lot like the ubiquitous BlackBerry device, but the Q is a fair amount thinner (0.45 inches thick). If you covet the Qwerty keyboard of the BlackBerry but want more multimedia functionality and a better experience managing attachments like Word documents or Excel spreadsheets, the Q could be for you. Available spring 2006, price not yet released.
A few innovations