Highlights from This Year’s International CES
Another wonderful International CES has passed us by. The event was filled with many exciting displays, like the Intel Ultrabook Tree, but most important were the announcements made by many manufactures. Some announcements are still years out, embodying nothing more than an idea. Other announcements having working prototypes, while still others are in the final stages before release or have been released.
While the exposition portion of CES with flashy booths, models in revealing clothing, and the latest wares on display only occurs Tuesday through Friday, the announcements are often made before. The Monday before the opening of the Las Vegas Convention Center floor is packed with press conferences from the biggest names in the electronics industry.
Even before those events begin, there is a pre-event show called CES Unveiled. Here, the press gets one-on-one with companies, as well as a sneak peak of their upcoming announcements and releases at CES. There were many iPhone accessories there and many audio devices. At this event Lenovo showed off its 27 inch Windows 8 tablet. This is not a tablet in the same sense that the Nexus 7 is a tablet. The Lenovo device is 20 inches larger! It is basically and all-in-one PC with a battery so it can be used flat on a table. However we wouldn’t recommend using it on a flimsy card table.
The next day, we saw a lot of talk about the connected home, or smart home, depending on which manufacturer you talked to. LG debuted NFC and WiFi-enabled washers, so you can start your laundry remotely, or set your cycle on your smart phone and NFC tap to start. Samsung announced smart appliances. These companies also announced 4k High-Definition televisions that can connect to your devices too. LG mentioned that they will be releasing 7 televisions with Google TV built it. If Google TV ever takes off, this could be exciting. There are excellent development opportunities for Google TV since it is basically Android.
In a similar vein, Netgear announced it was releasing a streaming box that has Google TV as well, The Netgear NeoTV Prime. Netgear then made a self-fulfilling statement. They said that all mobile devices released from now on will work with WiFi specification 802.11ac. However, we didn’t see anything mention it on the couple of newly released devices we saw at CES. Intel spoke about fourth generation ultrabooks, and their new Atom processor. The new Atom is claimed to be much faster, but only time will tell. Additionally, in order for a manufacturer to fit into Intel’s definition of fourth generation ultrabooks, it must have greatly improved battery life and be touch enabled. Thus, blurring the line between ultrabooks and tablets. Most ultrabooks will come with keyboards that can be folded away so you can use it in tablet more.
In perhaps the most exciting news, one week before CES Canonical announced they were making Ubuntu for Phones. At an evening event XDA Developer TV Producer Jordan got a demonstration of Ubuntu for Phone from Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth. One unique feature of Ubuntu for Phone is the lack of relying on hardware buttons for navigation. They rely a lot on gestures, swiping and interactive menus that appear from the sides of the screen.
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At the same event we talked to a representative from Mozilla. We got a demonstration of Boot 2 Gecko. They explained that the goal of B2G is not to become the biggest mobile operating system, but to ensure that there is an alternative. This is especially important in non-US lower end devices. This allows increase capabilities on these devices in countries where someone doesn’t have the luxury of buying a new $500 smartphone every year.
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One of the biggest news events from CES is from graphics powerhouse Nvidia. They not only released a cloud gaming solution called the Grid, but they announced Tegra 4 and Project Shield. Project Shield is a handheld gaming device on performance enhancing drugs. It can play games from a PC and stream them to a television. Project Shield is based on Android and in our talks with a few Nvidia engineers and representatives, the Shield devices should be fairly easy to unlock. It will only be sold locked to satisfy licensing agreements.
On Tuesday we attended an event for Italian company I’m S.p.A. which is the maker of the suspected vaporware device called the I’mwatch. In 2012 the I’mwatch was announced and many preorders have still gone unfilled. However, this year the smartwatch maker released an updated version of the I’mwatch and released units to the press. XDA Developer TV Producer Jordan got one, and he was not impressed. The literature said that the smartwatch will last for 48 hours without using Bluetooth, though that means there is no connection to your device, and therefore your messages and emails notifications will not come through. That is one of the selling points of a smartwatch. So that means the watch gets a standby time of 24 hours, but use the device and you will be charging this more often.
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One of the biggest – literally – releases at this year’s CES was the Huawei Ascend Mate. This 6.1 inch 6.1-inch HD IPS+ 1280 x 720 LCD touchscreen with Corning Gorilla glass device is sporting a 1.5 GHz quad-core Hi-Silicon K3V2 processor and 2GB of RAM and a 4050mAH battery is running Huawei’s Emotion UI. Many people claim Emotion UI is MIUI based. Our experience with the device was less than spectacular. The size was almost ridiculous and the performance was subpar at times.
Finally, the device we are most expected about is the newest Sony devices. The water and dust resistant Xperia Z and the LTE compatible Xperia ZL, both sporting 2GB of RAM, 16GB of Internal Storage and Quad-core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Krait with a 5 inch 1080 x 1920 Full HD screen. The performance is great and in our discussions, it seems certain that these devices will hit the Free Xperia Project and be updated to 4.2 Jelly Bean soon after release. Expected release is currently in March for the Xperia ZL and February for the Xperia Z. There is now rumors of a 10.1 inch Sony Xperia Z tablet.