CES: Billy G, Fancy Monitors, External Drives


It's been a long day of CES -- I've almost forgotten the joy of chugging up and down the Vegas strip in Doc Martens. My feet will never forgive me; let this be a lesson to anyone who dare brave a technology convention with anything but the comfiest of athletic shoes on. In the urge to hit as much ground-shattering news as possible, I skipped a normal dinner in favor of a quick pretzel and root beer. Sacrificing a stomach and general welfare for technology -- that's the Maximum PC way!

And boy, was today a doozy! The big HD-DVD announcements, or rather, the upsurge of support for Blu-ray has utterly stunned the beleaguered HD-DVD format in an epic pair of industry headlights. Dark times are a'brewing for HD-DVD. I predict this format will be virtually nullified by the end of the year. The ball's just rolled too much for HD-DVD to be anything but a straggler in the format wars. It will be very interesting to see how Microsoft handles this turnover -- will they cling to HD-DVD and ride it to its death, or will they bite the bullet and start cranking out Blu-ray (or at least, hybrid) drives for the ol' Xbox?

The Bill Gates Keynote

Alas, we didn't get many glimmers of the future from the big Bill Gates keynote. If anything, I'd venture that it was 95% wasted time and funny reminiscing, with 5% of tangible, product-themed information. And no, there was no mention of any fancy new Xbox version whatsoever. See this Xbox Ultimate? Not yours.

This was my spot in the line for said keynote, which marked Bill's last as Microsoft's Overlord. I spent 2 hours and 30 minutes of the line napping, 15 minutes trying to update maximumpc.com on my iPhone (while waiting in line for a Microsoft keynote. Yes, I was afraid of some kind of cosmic backlash), and 15 minutes cursing the universe that I didn't grab food beforehand.

A nice shot of the keynote pre-gates. Note the fancy use of lighting and/or huge screens.

The man, the myth, the legend. Bill discussed a few patterns behind Microsoft's future commitments: computers are going to continue to define a person's life experience across all mediums, and he envisions a day when services are the means that bring this all together. For example, you'd update pictures, invites, maps, et cetera to a common web property -- "the cloud," as Bill described it -- and access your shared information using a single ID across multiple devices. The user interface will improve along with this interaction, leading to televisions that recognize gestures, cars that recognize speech (as was demoed later), and customized retail experiences.

Bill and friends went on to hit all the key Microsoft numbers (business is up!), gave us some pleasant demos of how Windows Live works, and showed a bit more of the Windows Surface technology. You know, that Minority Report -esqe coffee table that would respond to your gestures and mannerisms using some fancy camera technology.

Microsoft's teaming up with NBC to bring Silverlight-based, real-time information to the 2008 Olympics. Woot. ABC and Disney are tossing content on Xbox Live, MGM's following suit, and Samsung and HP are releasing products with the Xbox extender technology built into the device. In the case of the latter, you'll find that in HP's new MediaSmart TVs.

To end the event, Slash came out to do some Guitar Hero wankery. Is it me, or is watching executives play-but-not-really-play Guitar Hero 3 just not appealing in any fashion? I mean, Guitar Hero is cool and all, but it's not exactly jaw-droppingly amazing at this point. Least, I don't think anybody wets themselves over one's mastery of Rock You Like A Hurricane anymore.

The Products

I swung up to Pepcom's Digital Experience post-Bill to catch up with a few companies I might not be seeing on the show floor. First up was Alienware, who I might not have noticed save for their rather... unique... display sitting on the table.

The "Curve Display," as its called, has a resolution of 2880 by 900. Yum. It's coming out in the second half of 2008, and it's entirely rear-projection. I worry for the effect that will have on the quality of the picture -- the model they were playing with had very noticeable lines separating the three projected panes -- least, that's what I gathered was going on. Here's hoping this was just a prototype model. Oh, and this monitor comes with no HDCP. Goodbye, HD movies.

Viewsonic was showing off some fancy new monitors as well. Here's the N2230w, a fancy little 22-inch panel that serves as a hybrid monitor/TV.

I'm looking forward to getting this one in the Lab for some testing. It's Viewsonic's new LED-backlit, 22-inch monitor. Apparently, the backlighting helps amplify the coloration and contrasts -- but it's impossible to verify these claims when a company is showing off... the monitor.

Drive Time

Elsewhere on the floor, I caught up with Fabrik to check out their upcoming line of external, portable USB drives. In what seems to be a growing trend with these little guys, Fabrik is joining companies like Western Digital in releasing wildly colorful bits o' storage. In this case, the drives -- ranging from 120GB to 320GB -- will come in such fanciful colors as Espresso, Marshmallow, and Black Cherry. Tasty. Here's hoping they're as speedy as they are succulent.

I couldn't resist this next one. Nothing fancy from Western Digital, save for skins for their My Book line of drives. Go Bucks!

As noted, everyone seems to be making colorful, USB-based portable drives nowadays. Iomega is no exception; here's a look at their bevy of models, which range from 60GB to 250GB in capacity.

This last one's picture-less, as Seagate ran away with its products before I could get my camera out. But I did have a good chat with the storage company, and they showed off their newest external drive: Black Armor. This security and encryption-focused drive looks normal enough. When you plug it into your computer, you're immediately prompted for a password -- miss the password three times, and the drive automatically scrubs away its contents in a government-worthy bout of data destruction. Yikes. Expect this 160GB drive in June, retailing for $200.

Also, Seagate showed off its DAVE mobile drive -- it's the same guy we've been reporting about for awhile, a completely mobile storage unit that will sync up with various devices (mobile phones, automobiles, camcorders, etc.) and serve as a storage hub. Seagate promises iPhone support on this one; I found that one rather curious, given Apple's penance for regulating its devices' storage. Seagate looks to ship the drive (with a 10-hour use time, 14-day standby time) by Q3 of the financial year -- a marked speed-up since the last time I chatted with them.

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