CES 2006 Blog, Day 3: Friday

7:16 am. I've actually been up for over an hour, and breakfast has been taken care of. Last night, I attended a Microsoft VIP reception at the Windows Vista Lounge, essentially a tent that was set up next to the Microsoft press room in the LVCC parking lot. The reception was great, because I was able to hang out with some people I hadn't seen in a while. Inside, Microsoft was showing off three consumer-oriented Vista scenarios. I only looked at them fleetingly, since I'm pretty much up on all that of course, but I believe they were all related to digital memories (photos and movies). Nothing new there, but they were showing off Vista build 5276 in the Microsoft booth, which is slightly newer than the December CTP testers got.


After the reception, I had to head over to the Wynn for Showstoppers. This represented a logistical issue, since I wasn't exactly sure where the Wynn was, and the monorail only goes to about half the strip. However, while standing in line at the monorail, I figured out the Wynn was actually right across the street, so it was a short walk and then a shuttle bus to get into the hotel, which is beautiful looking if you haven't seen it. As with most hotel-based events at CES, Showstoppers was deep in the bowels of the building, and it felt like I walked a mile before I got there. As with Digital Experience, Showstoppers was bigger than ever, and it's starting to lose its small company focus, though it's still a valuable way to spend valuable one-on-one time with companies you really care about.


I ended up getting back to the hotel room far more quickly than I had imagined would be possible, but then I crashed immediately. Thus the early morning, I guess.


My first meeting isn't until 11:00, but I still need to write Short Takes and get caught up with work, so I'll get going on that now.

12:15 pm.

Just finished up with the Windows Media folks at Microsoft. It's another busy day: After lunch, I have meetings with HP, AMD, and then Dell, and between those I'll be walking the South Hall at the LVCC.


Windows Media Player 11 (WMP 11) and MTV's integrated URGE service are looking great. It seems that Microsoft may have finally found a strategy that will help its digital music offerings compete with Apple. First, WMP 11 is far more visual than previous versions (and iTunes), with copious use of album art and stacked album views. It makes iTunes look like dBASE III by comparison. Second, MTV is, perhaps, the one brand that has bigger pull with young music buyers than Apple. And the way that MTV's URGE service integrates into WMP 11 is simply amazing. I'll have a write-up about this on the SuperSite at some point, though it will be a month or two before the near-final beta appears publicly for Windows XP.


Microsoft also gave me a Verizon phone to test (it's an LG VX8100). The phone supports the new VCAST music service, which looks incredible. Yes, it supports over the air song downloads, and it's about time. But it also integrates back with Windows Media Player: When you download a song directly to the phone, your WMP will download a second copy to the player on your PC as well. If you buy songs the traditional way, they can sync right up with the phone using USB, just like any other music player.


Anyway. On to the show...

5:13 pm

Quite a busy day, but no surprise there. After lunch, I headed over to the South Hall to check out the expansive show floor there. It was as busy as ever. HP's humongous booth is all over the map, with amazing DLP, LCD and Plasma displays, printers, PCs, and so on. I met with HP's television folks. They have a number of exciting things going on, including 9 new TV models. The big boy is a 65-inch DLP unit with a feature called "Wobulation" that eliminates the shadows and grid effect that characterizes those types of displays. The most interesting display they had, however, was a 37-inch LCD that includes a small embedded OS for working with PC- and device-based digital media. It has both wired and wireless networking connections, and the OS interface is pretty slick. Look for it in mid-2006.


Creative's new Zen Vision:M is surprisingly nice. Like all Zen devices, it comes in a variety of pleasant colors and bests the iPod with video in just about every way imaginable: The display is nicer, the battery life is way better (4 hours of video vs. 2.5 for the iPod), it includes an FM radio and a voice recorder, and sports a high-resolution video out. Good stuff.


Google has a booth. I'm not sure why. But as I write this, the company is announcing its video service. I'll have a full article on that soon.


Ceiva is showing off their digital photo frames. I bought one for my wife for Christmas; they're not half bad.


AMD is talking up their microprocessors, of course, but while their PC-based products might be getting all the press these days, their embedded CPUs are interesting too. Their called Alchemy, and they're low power but high performance and will be turning up in a number of portable media players in the US soon (they're already available in Korea).


My last meeting of the day, and of the show, was with Dell. Dell's transformation over the past few years is nothing short of miraculous. Once known only as a conservative maker of business PCs, Dell has launched hugely successful lines of gaming and entertainment PCs and HDTV displays, and the company announced new versions of each at the show. They're all amazing. On the PC side, Dell now offers a gorgeous 30-inch LCD for just $2199 (take that Apple; it's only $1999 with a new PC). It runs at 2560 x 1600, and it just makes my 24-inch Sony look silly by comparison. For gaming PC enthusiasts, Dell will soon offer a high-end XPS 600 Renegade that features a hand-painted case, an overclocked (and warranted) 4.26 GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor, quad processor SLI graphics and 10,000 RPM Raptor hard drives. Insane? Yes. Desirable? You have no idea. There's more, including some cool notebooks, but I'll save that for a future article. Amazing stuff all around.


Now I've got dinner with Brian Livingston and then possibly a Stevie Wonder concert at some sort of Monster Cable event. I'll try to post a final update late tonight.

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