With identification badges tethered to their necks, and color-coded booth maps clutched in their hands, attendees at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show began on Thursday to search out this year's must-haves.
The booths are densely populated pods where one asks questions and is rewarded with an item like a pen with the company's logo on it and a mint. Old stalwarts like Hewlett-Packard, Sony, Motorola and Intel were mobbed.
Intel, sporting a recently christened new logo, made news when CEO Paul Otellini officially introduced a new concept in microchip development called VIIV -- rhymes with five. The unique combination of software and hardware components makes it ideal for multimedia in a home theater and on the Microsoft Media Center operating system. Besides accessing music and video super fast, it also can feed your television and portable devices wirelessly. Actors Tom Hanks, Morgan Freeman and Danny DeVito appeared onstage to offer their support for how the platform will deliver movies over the Internet.
Earlier in the day, Michael Dell unwrapped his namesake company's luxury high-end gamer computer. If you don't know your bits from your bytes, then you may not be impressed by the blazing fast chips inside, but you may enjoy the bright red casing that sports flames.
Google's co-founder isn't scheduled to speak until this afternoon, but word is spreading that he will be making two big announcements that will shock the industry. Insiders expect a pay-for-video service like an Apple's iTunes store for video as well as a Web-based bundled program delivery system that is an affront to Microsoft.
The show is so large that this year it expanded to include the recently opened Sands Convention Center. Some attendees were surprised to see that an adjoining hall was hosting the 2006 Adult Entertainment Expo. Although the hallway interactions looked like a scene from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," the estimated 30,000 adult entertainment enthusiasts and the 130,000 tech buffs seemed equally fascinated with each other.
Here are some standout products so far:
Kodak EasyShare V570 digital camera.
Kodak unveiled its new stylish digital camera, which is the only digital camera to contain a wide-angle lens and a close-up lens. The camera allows you to choose the lens you want. A frequent complaint of digital holdouts is the lack of ability to change the lenses on the smaller compact cameras. Kodak has delivered a truly innovative solution.
Additionally, the camera feels solid, has a crisp large screen on the back and optical zoom x 5, and captures up to 5 megapixels. Other innovative features include on-camera video editing and photo touch-up tools like red-eye removal.
Chatter Bug -- Long-Distance Service.
Besides the tons of huge TVs, small music players, and high-tech robots, you may also see something totally revolutionary at CES. Chatter Bug is a new company that says it can offer any customer in the United States unlimited long distance for a $9.99 flat fee a month.
The Chatter Bug is a piece of plastic that sits between your phone and cord, detects when users make long-distance calls, and routes it to a special gateway that completes the call. Plans call for the Chatter Bug to be available in many national retailers.
Company representatives say that adding the device is completely legal, does not effect the quality of the call and will not hinder completion of local calls.
V Cast Music
Verizon held a news conference to preannounce its new wireless music store called V Cast Music. Starting Jan. 16, Verizon customers who subscribe to the $15-a-month V Cast data plan will be able to buy songs through the air for $1.99 and download them through the air to their phone and have a second copy sent to their Windows XP machine. Strangely, you are able to download a song at home for $.99, and legally and technically transfer the file to your cell phone via USB.
The music store uses Microsoft's Windows Media encryption to control the users rights, but executives said the liberal transfer policy to the phone and from the phone should make users happy.
By spring, more than a million songs will be available. Users will have to purchase a new phone, but the new phones are compatible with new sandisk memory cards that can increase your capacity to 2 GB or 4 GB, leaving lots of room to place music or videos.