Prior commitments prevented me from attending the 2003 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, last week. However, after watching news reports and receiving press releases about the event, I'm intrigued by a few developments.
The first item seems to be a significant trend: Several vendors, including Apple, D-link Systems, NETGEAR, and Linksys, have jumped on the 802.11g bandwagon. As I mentioned in the January 2 edition of Mobile & Wireless UPDATE, 802.11g is one of several variations of the basic 802.11 Wi-Fi wireless Ethernet standard that support faster data rates (more than 20Mbps, according to the IEEE).
I'm happy to see major vendors supporting 802.11g, which in addition to speedier data rates should offer enhanced security while remaining compatible with existing 802.11b networks. However, I'm somewhat concerned about these early devices because IEEE's 802.11 working group hasn't in fact completed the 802.11g standard: It's currently at Draft 5 and isn't expected to be finalized until June or July 2003. This lack of finalization shouldn't matter, as long as the vendors provide proper support (which might involve upgrading drivers or reflashing firmware in the 802.11g network adapters). I'd recommend checking on such support before you buy any 802.11g hardware.
In other CES news, WebLink Wireless announced that it will support both Palm OS 5 and Linux as OS options in a new line of PDAs that offer two-way paging capability. The company promises true consumer prices, "from $100 to the mid-$200 range," and will offer the devices beginning in mid-2003.
A surprise announcement came from PalmSource, which has licensed Jot, a handwriting recognizer from Communications Intelligence Corporation (CIC), for use in future Palm OS devices. PalmSource will market the devices with the tagline "Graffiti 2 powered by Jot." The surprising part of this development is that Microsoft used Jot as the default handwriting recognizer in the less-than-successful Palm-Sized PC (PsPC) devices that predated today's Pocket PCs.
To be fair, I'm sure today's Jot is quite different from the version on early PsPCs. And even then, Jot offered some nice features—for example, you could easily customize it to recognize left-handed input. Jot is highly customizable and includes built-in international character support.
CES wouldn't be complete without showcasing at least one product that combines bleeding-edge technology, weirdness, and fun. This year, one such product is Wany Robotics' oddly named Pekee 1.8 Robot Platform, robotics software that features built-in 802.11b wireless networking and a color video camera. The software costs about 5900 euros.
This fall, for a somewhat lower price, you can buy a wristwatch that uses Microsoft's new Smart Personal Objects Technology. SPOT watches include a built-in wireless network link that uses "direct band" technology, They'll offer a variety of features, including automatic time-zone recognition when you travel and optional delivery of information such as weather and stock quotes. Microsoft's partners in this endeavor include some well-known watchmakers, including Citizen, Fossil, Philippe Stark, Suunto, and Abacus.