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CES 08: Recapping the week at CES

Well, it has been a couple of days since I returned from Vegas; however, I am still catching up on sleep. The TR team spent all day meeting with vendors and all night blogging and shooting videos about what we saw.

Now that I've had a few of days to catch my breath, I figure it's a perfect time to recap the week.

Trends for 2008

1. Ease of use and simplicity

One of the big trends at CES 2008 was an emphasis on ease of use and simplicity. Netgear, Philips, Ambient Devices, Sling Media and Samsung were a few of the companies who really made a point of improving the ease of use of their products. It seems that companies finally recognize that the setup process is as important as the features or price of their product.

2. Interoperability

Another trend that I saw was a move toward interoperability and open platforms. Netgear, DivX, Slacker and Logitech were some of the companies that specifically highlighted support for other companies' products.

3. Guitar Hero > "Booth Babes" for drawing visitors

You can't go to a convention or trade show without seeing scantily-clad women being used to promote products. CES is no exception; however, this year, Guitar Hero was giving them a run for their money. I noticed a lot of booths using Guitar Hero as an incentive to come in and hang out rather than the traditional "booth babe." I stopped in several booths just to display my ridiculous plastic guitar skills.

Hits

1. SlingCatcher / SlingPlayer 2.0 / Clip+Sling / Blackberry support

As a whole, Sling Media was the company that had the best set of products at CES. From the SlingCatcher (my personal favorite of the show) to the new SlingPlayer 2.0 to the addition of Blackberry support for SlingPlayer Mobile, Sling Media is really doing some innovative things with their placeshifting technology. See our video demo of the SlingCatcher.

SlingCatcher

2. Bug Labs modules

The most hardcore geek product of CES was definitely Bug Labs new modules which won CNET.com's Best of CES award for Emerging Technologies. Basically, Bug has built a set of LEGO-like components (GPS, LCD, camera, motion sensor, etc) that can be snapped together to build your own custom gadgets. Want a camera that takes a picture based on activity in front of the motion sensor and sends the photos to Flickr or your e-mail account? You can build it with the modules from Bug Labs.

The Bug Base, the main device that the other modules snap into, is powered by Linux and has full Java support. Bug is also fostering a Bug community to share code so that you don't have to do all of the heavy lifting yourself.

3. Netgear's All-Access Home

Although I mentioned a trend of open platforms and interoperability, I really liked Netgear's All-Access Home approach of creating a suite of products designed to work together. From their new dual band router to their HD gaming bridge to their Ready NAS Duo, Netgear is trying to make sharing and streaming media around the home easier. Plus, they had one of the more technically impressive press events of the week that showed their products standing up to real-world conditions.

4. Logitech Squeezebox Duet

The new Squeezebox Duet from Logitech was being called a poor-man's Sonos by many people at CES ($400 for the Duet versus a $1,000 for a Sonos). The Duet takes the streaming functions of the original Squeezebox and makes them more portable by adding a handheld unit that can control your music throughout your house. It features a 2.4 color LCD and an iPod-esque navigation wheel. One of the cooler features of the Duet's remote is the ability to plug headphones into it and use it as a portable media player anywhere within range of the base station.

5. Hitachi 1.5 LCDs

I'm a sucker for a great-looking HDTV and Hitachi definitely delivered those this year. Their new line of 1.5 HDTVs are only 1.5 inches thick. Hitachi claims that all new parts needed to be designed and manufactured to support these new ultra-thin displays. Oh, and the picture on the displays looked pretty good, too :) The 1.5 line will be available in 32", 37" and 42".

Misses

1. XStreamHD

Even with investor and actor Michael Douglas kicking off their press event, XStreamHD couldn't really win the crowd over for their new 1080p HD/7.1 DTS streaming service once they announced that they had no contracts signed with any content providers and that they would "let the studios decide" on the their content pricing structure and their rental terms once they do get them on board.

If they can get content from all of the major studios *and* provide that content in a simple, all-you-can-eat subscription plan, they could have a winner on their hands.

2. Samsung's 7" monitor add-on

Samsung showed off a new 22" LCD that features a 7" add-on monitor that attaches to the bezel of the 22-incher. The marketing guy from Samsung claims that most people don't actually need all of the screen real estate that 2 full-sized monitors provide. Even if that were true, I can't think of many practical uses of the tiny 7" screen. Give me another 22" display, please.

3. Philips' Active Crystals jewelry

I mentioned these earlier in the week, so I won't pile on too much here. However, is anyone really going to buy a 1GB heart-shaped USB thumb drive pendant that costs $179? The Philips rep claimed they would make a great Valentine's Day gift. I can only imagine what my wife would do if I bought her one of these.

So what was the best (and worst) products you saw announced at CES? Which ones will you be waiting in line to get?

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