CES 2008- Overall impressions so far

We’ve now had two complete days of show attendance at the CES and here’s some further impressions of what we’ve seen and heard so far.  First of all, everyone we talk to is finding that there has been nothing major announced nor displayed at the show.  This is common for this show as it’s not the place that companies tend to launch big stuff.   That doesn’t mean there isn’t lots of things to see though, and that’s what we’ve spent most of our time doing.

On the mobile front we’ve seen lots of new notebooks being launched byjust about every OEM that produces them.  Most of them have been coolnotebooks but without major innovations added.  The Lenovo consumerline of IdeaPads are very nice in this area and it will depend on thepricing they go with that determines whether or not consumers go crazyfor them.  They are very nice notebooks no question with some newfeatures for Lenovo but as we all know it’s the pricing that will determine how well these take off.  We’ve also seen a number of verypowerful gaming notebooks from a number of OEMs such as Gateway, Dell and HP andwhile these will be no doubt pricey they will raise the bar for thehigh-end notebook segment.  A number of companies are also nowproducing high-end multimedia notebooks with HDTV capabilities and large screens to take advantage of that.

One of the most active product areas at CES this year is the UMPC/ MIDline of devices.  There are many companies showing new MIDs of everysize and shape.  It is obvious that OEMs believe this an area that willgrow dramatically this year and they may be right, but in this segment more than any it will also comedown to pricing for these devices to see how well received they are inthe marketplace.  Linux is very evident across the board on thesedevices.  It is evident that the success that Asus has enjoyed with the EEE PC has made itclear to OEMs that pricing is a very large factor in the success ofultra-mobile devices and many are scrambling to produce devices thatcan be produced much more cheaply than in years past.  Asus is notresting on the laurels of this EEE PC success either and is hard at work toget WiMax into the lion’s share of their mobile PC product line.  Ibelieve that this is a very good thing but of course it will requirethat providers roll out widespread coverage areas of WiMax service forthis to be of benefit to consumers.  It will have to be cheap service,too, something that remains to be seen.   One thing that is clear toeveryone playing in the ultra-mobile PC arena, Linux is rapidlybecoming an acceptable OS for consumer consumption because it is muchcheaper for the OEM and thus can keep pricing on Linux-based devices ata much lower level than those that use Windows.  Microsoft better bewatching this phenomenon with open eyes that’s for sure.

Another highly active area that is being touted at this year’s show isthe location-based device/ service stage.  GPS-enabled devices areeverywhere and it’s clear that many companies believe we all want tohave location-based capabilities in our hands.  This is a good thing asit adds useful capabilities to the devices we use.  GPS chipsets have come down in price dramatically and OEMs see they can add them to almost any device, from phones to UMPCs.   There will likely be dramatic behind-the-scenes things going on this year for those companies that produce software to take advantage of location-based functions which can only be good for you and me.

We haven’t seen really anything impressionable in the mobile phone area which is kind of surprising.  There are no shortage of phones on display but nothing really earth-shaking for the consumer.  To be fair though Kevin and I will have private briefings today from Palm and Nokia so maybe that will change and we’ll report what we see for sure.

On the Tablet PC front we haven’t seen any new products that have been previously unannounced with the exception of the HP tx2000.  This is a nice refresh over the tx1000 from last year that was touch digitizer only and suffered from horrible inking as a result.  The tx2000 has dual digitizers and is a nice inking tablet along with a very usable touch digitizer for screen manipulation.  I played with this a few weeks ago and was very impressed with the tablet experience on what is also a killer multimedia notebook.  The multimedia remote control that slides into a storage slot on the side of the tx2000 is a nice touch too.  Kudos to HP for giving a tx2000 to a lucky winner at the Tablet PC meetup yesterday.  Lucky person!

This overview is by no means a comprehensive one, it is just my own take on what I’ve seen so far.  It’s good to see the handheld computer space heat up and that many OEMs see the potential for these little devices.  We’ll have to see how they perform in the real world, something we’ll be keeping out eyes out for.