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CES pulse: What's hot, cold and in between

Posted: 14 Jan 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:consumer electronics? Wi-Fi? USB 3.0? processor?

Smartbooks warming in the oven
For more than a year, six ARM-based processor vendors have been trying to jump-start a category of ultra-mobile devices with more battery life and Web-savvy than today's notebooks. At CES, Lenovo brought that vision to life with its Skylight notebook.

Skylight is noticeably thinner, lighter than a netbook, and is expected to have longer battery lifeten hours cranking on the Net. Sounds great, but Lenovo will have to deliver a robust, feature-rich device and educate end users not to expect all the trappings of a Windows netbook. And it can't establish a category all by itself, so other OEMs must jump in with similar products before this sector is firmly in the hot zone.

Plastic Logic's Rich Archuleta and the Que e-book.

E-books: Get out before you freeze
The electronic book is a cool concept. There are just two problems: it's a secondary device for just about anyone who uses it and there are about twice as many e-book vendors as the market will ever need.

The e-book segment was already getting competitive with Amazon and Barnes & Noble offering their own systems, and Sony offering a credible alternative. Now there's the Skiff, two Samsung e-books and many, many devices from Taiwan Inc. Plastic Logic hopes to carve out a unique market sector replacing paper for business users with its Que announced at CES, but it's not clear others can't do the same.

On the horizon, we foresee an even bigger problem: As PC tablets get smaller and better, they will be able to host e-book readers as applications. Throw in the much-rumored Apple iSlate, a combo e-book/tablet/netbook expected in late January, and this standalone e-book is looking like the Edsel of mobile computing.

Tablets: Waiting for Jobs
Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer showed a Hewlett-Packard slate computer in his CES keynote that raised the temperature in Vegas by an estimated 0.001 degrees. That's because the industry is holding its collective breath to see what the other Stevethe one from Cupertinoshows off in late January.

We are not convinced tablet computers are the next big thing. After all, Bill Gates has pushed the tablet PC concept for years, but to date these systems are only marginally interesting devices for avid note takers and insurance claims adjusters.

Startup Entourage showed the "Edge," which marries an e-book and tablet, but we'd prefer an integrated device. If there's a hot tablet out there, we'd like to see it.


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