2008 CES: More Tech Than You Can Handle

Qualcomm, the huge wireless chipmaker, will also have a major presence. And expect also to see a slew of iPod and iPhone accessories, from cases to car adapters. (For any new iPhone or iPod announcements, though, you'll have to wait another week for MacWorld in San Francisco.)

GPS vendors who will show off their wares include Garmin, Mio, and TomTom. Expect to see all sorts of new features that enhance basic navigation: Garmin's new Nuvi 800, for example, adds speech recognition to enable hands-free operation of the popular car navigation system. Garmin is also introducing a new series of Nuvis, the 5000 series, with oversize 5.2-inch touchscreen displays.

Mapping software veteran DeLorme, meanwhile, will show off the ability to enhance geocaching with photographs using a digital camera with its Topo USA 7.0 topographical mapping software and its Earthmate PN-20 handheld GPS device.

When it comes to set-top boxes at CES, we've heard the same promise for years. This year, we expect to hear more from set-top box makers beyond the standard pledge of bringing Internet video and other content to the TV. Expect the same promise, but this time (fingers crossed), maybe we'll see some real progress.

We'll be anxious to see a just-announced set-top box from Netflix and LG capable of delivering on-demand movies to Netflix subscriber homes. The device will become available to the company's 7 million consumers in the second half of 2008.

Other set-top box makers at CES will be talking about high-definition (HD) content this year. HD is nothing new, but companies are constantly working on delivering higher quality video using less bandwidth. Well be hunting down Motorola's just announced set-top boxes that use the very efficient video compression standard MPEG-4.

For the first time, we're seeing more than a few set-top box makers adding audio capability to their equipment with some even offering support for surround-sound speaker systems. This year's models will include a lot move video storage space on their on-board digital video recorders (DVRs), so we'll be able to store whole seasons of shows without having to erase old episodes or movies to make room.

Hewlett-Packard will be showing off its MediaSmart Receiver x280N, which can stream a wide variety of audio (MP3, WMA, WMA-Pro, WAV, AAC/m4a) from a PC to your home entertainment center via its wireless 802.11a/b/g/n connection. The HP box also streams video (MPEG-2, DivX, WMV, WMV-HD, and H.264/MP4 files) and can display images (JPEG, BMP, GIF, and PNG photos).

In short, you're not likely to see genre-busting announcements (remember Apple TV?) at CES this year, but you will see a bunch of new boxes that do more with the Internet, use less bandwidth, sound better, and store more content for viewing on-demand.



CES Serves Up Home Servers

Home servers should have a breakthrough year at CES. Microsoft released its own home server platform last year and other companies are expected to follow suit. Networking company 2Wire, for instance, is touting its "intelligent home server" (because after all, you wouldn't want a stupid one). The idea is to collect all of your different media--music, photos and video--and then serve it out to devices like PCs, video game consoles and TVs in your home and mobile phones while you're on the go--all without forcing you to think about file formats and codecs.  It'll be great if they can make it work.

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