Tag Archives | CES

The (Not So Many) Games of CES

The Consumer Electronics Show is not a prime venue for video games, although it used to be, back before gaming had its own trade show, E3. But while some of my game journalism friends flew in and immediately started grumbling about how little there was to do, I enjoyed the scraps of stick time snuck in between checking out all the new tech toys. And unlike E3’s usual far-off fare, most of the games I played at CES are coming out in the next month or two. Here are the higlights of what I saw:

Heavy Rain: I played one scene of this PS3-exclusive adventure game at a party for bloggers, and despite the festive atmosphere, my heart was racing and palms were sweating as I tried to subdue an armed convenience store robber using smart dialog choices. No shooting galleries here, just pure dramatic tension. I can’t wait for February 23.

Splinter Cell: Conviction: I miss the game’s pure stealth roots, and being able to rely so easily on gunplay instead felt cheap, but if you do perform stealth kills, you earn the ability to execute, well, even easier silent kills. It’s out February 23 for PC and Xbox 360.

Lego Universe: It’s a third-person beat-em-up, due sometime this year, in the style of previous Lego Batman, Star Wars and Indiana Jones games, plus the ability to cooperate with people online. That’s worth a yawn, but I’m excited for the inclusion of Lego’s existing Digital Designer software. I’m told that you can build things in Digital Designer and put them in your home space within the game. Wait, a Lego game that actually encourages creativity? Cool.

Super Stardust HD in 3D: Sony’s 3D gaming kiosks didn’t make me want to buy a capable television right now, but I did enjoy seeing this pop out of the screen. The game’s out now in two dimensions.

Capcom Goes Retro: At an off-site suite, Capcom had a few old-school offerings on display. Final Fight Double Impact, due for Xbox 360 and PS3 in April, is the same beat-em-up as ever, plus achievements, a virtual bezel that looks just like the old arcade machine and a lesser-known 1990s arcade title, Magic Sword, packed in. But the real attraction was Mega Man 10, out in March. Yeah, it’s the same jump-and-gun platformer I’ve been playing since childhood, but I always come crawling back.

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Nvidia Offers a Taste of Tablets to Come

Laying unceremoniously towards the end of Nvidia’s booth at a press event tonight was an early prototype of the Ultra, an Android 2.0 tablet developed by ICD.

It’s the same tablet (or slate — I’m as baffled as Harry by the terminology shift) that appeared briefly, of all places, on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, a 7-inch tablet with all the trimmings: Wi-Fi, 3G, Webcam, MicroSD slot, 4 GB of internal memory and, of course, Nvidia’s formidable Tegra chip. An Nvidia representative promised more and better tablets at the company’s booth tomorrow, but I had to take a stab at this one tonight.

The Ultra was a bit buggy, which explains why Nvidia wasn’t making a big deal of it. As soon as I picked it up, it crashed. Then it took a while to load up. Then the touch screen acted a bit dodgy. And yet, I walked away excited.

What most impressed me was the tablet’s speed and smoothness. Maybe it’s the iPhone effect, but lately I’ve become obsessed by this sort of thing. And because I’ve never seen Android running so smoothly — even the Nexus One phone on display elsewhere at the event showed some choppiness — using the Ultra was a pleasure. A 1080p version of Star Trek played without a stutter, and the e-reader function flipped nimbly between pages.

We don’t yet know what Apple has in store — or for that matter, whether Apple has anything in store at all — but even if it’s something completely surprising, I could get comfortable with Tegra and Android as purveyors of working class tabletslates. We’ll see what else is in store tomorrow.

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Lenovo’s IdeaPad U1 Looks Rough, Still Neat

You may have heard earlier this week about Lenovo’s IdeaPad U1, an 11.6-inch laptop with a fully detachable tablet screen. Lenovo had it on display tonight, and the press were clamoring to get a look.

Seeing the IdeaPad U1 up close, it’s hard not to get a bit giddy. You essentially get two machines in one, the base computer powered by a Core 2 Duo processor and the tablet running on a 1 GHz Snapdragon ARM chip. Peeling the tablet from its shell requires a simple pull away from the translucent red backing, then upwards.

Once separated, the tablet switches into a custom, Linux-based operating system that, sadly, is pretty jerky. However, the product is six months out, and Lenovo says they want to boost the smoothness factor before release. Otherwise, the tablet mode is easy enough to navigate, with four big panels for photos, videos, music and documents. There’s also a six-panel screen that includes a variety of widgets, such as weather and e-mail.

A couple other points of concern: the tablet’s screen got washed out pretty easily at off-angles — it was easy to notice this as other people handled the unit around me. And if you don’t like the red shell, too bad, because that’s all Lenovo has in store for now.

Still, the idea of a modular computer is exciting. It’s definitely possible to use both pieces at once, with the base plugged into an external monitor (or downloading files idly) while you browse away on the tablet. Put together, the computers combine resources, sharing storage and getting eight hours of battery life where the tablet alone gets less than five. Many of the other specs are up in the air, but you’ll definitely get 4 GB of RAM (512 MB for the tablet), 2 USB ports and a 1.3-megapixel Web cam.

Lenovo said they’re hoping to get the IdeaPad U1’s price under $1,000 for a May or June release.


The Mysterious, Flying AR.Drone

It’s my first ever Consumer Electronics Show, so I was happy to see at least one completely ridiculous tech product upon arrival in Las Vegas. Creating a spectacle at the entrance to Tuesday night’s media event was the AR.Drone, a UFO-like toy that’s controlled by iPhone.

Three years in development, the AR.Drone was a passion project of Paris-based Parrot, which mostly designs hands-free Bluetooth devices. This gadget is quite different, using a set of fans to propel itself in the air. The Drone is supposed to fly for 15 minutes on a lithium polymer battery, but every time I watched this thing, it fell after a minute or two. Here’s a short video I shot on my iPhone:

An on-board video camera feeds back to the iPhone. The idea is to use the Drone in alternate reality games, superimposing images onto real world video. Imagine controlling this toy in the park while blasting pretend alien spaceships, or dueling against a fellow Drone owner. Yoni Benatar, the Drone’s project manager, said Parrot is talking to developers about creating apps for the product.

Benatar wouldn’t provide a price, but mentioned $500 or lower and then said “something affordable.” Parrot’s hoping to release the Drone later this year.

I’m not naive enough to think we’ll ever hear again from this novelty product, but CES would be pretty dull without the occasional gizmo whose head is in the clouds.


My CES Wish List

Most of my time at the moment is being eating up by preparations for two annual events involving shiny new toys. One of these events is this Thursday. The other one is in a couple of weeks: It’s the mammoth Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where I’ll head to learn what the tech industry thinks is going to matter in 2010. (Well, all of the tech industry except Apple, that is.)

In the meantime, I’ve been reflecting on what I hope I’ll encounter at the show. I share some of them in my newest WePC.com contribution, Six Things I’d Like to See at CES (But Probably Won’t!). Check it out–and while you’re at WePC, you might want to investigate how to get a shot at winning a free PC.

Oh, and any of you going to CES?

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Apple at CES? Not According to CES.

Apple CESIn a blog post reporting on a journalists’ dinner with Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Electronics Association, the Wall Street Journal’s Ben Charny reports that that Apple plans to attend the Consumer Electronics Show next January for “the first time in memory.” Big news! Except, as former Engadget editor-in-chief Ryan Block says, Shapiro said no such thing.

I was at the dinner, too, and there was much discussion of the question of whether Apple might ever exhibit at the show. But as Ryan says, Shapiro specifically said that the company hadn’t booked any space, and that it was too late for it to buy a large booth at next year’s show anyhow. If Charny found evidence that Apple is going to “attend” CES in any sense other than sending one or more staffers to Vegas to walk around the show floor and see what the competition is up to, it’s news to CES.

As for the WSJ’s headline–“Will Apple CEO Headline CES ’10?”–the answer would appear to be “It seems really unlikely.” Shapiro said that the CEA has invited Jobs to give a CES keynote for years, and that the Apple CEO has never expressed any interest in doing so.

I’m sure that CES would be ecstatic if Jobs suddenly agreed to keynote its event. But Shapiro said that CES likes keynotes which provide vision for the entire industry and which aren’t too self-promotional. Jobs keynotes, of course, are always profoundly Apple-centric (often snarking at other companies) and focused around products the company is about to release. And Apple decided to pull out of Macworld Expo in part because it didn’t like having to schedule product releases around somebody else’s trade show in early January.

As Apple said in its press release announcing it was saying goodbye to Macworld:

Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways.

That doesn’t mean that the chances of Apple taking a newfound interest in CES are zero. But they’re way, way less than those of the company spending the same money it would have invested in a major CES presence in its own event in the same general timeframe…

[UPDATE: The San Francisco Chronicle’s Ryan Kim, who was also at the dinner, not only chimes in but provides a transcript of Gary Shapiro’s comments about Apple and CES.]

[FURTHER UPDATE: The bit about Apple attending CES is now gone from the WSJ story, which now starts with a correction: “It is not clear whether Apple will attend the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show. This post previously stated that Apple would attend.” Seems to me that all evidence–such as Apple’s failure to book show space–still suggests that it’s not unclear, but unlikely, that it’ll be there.]

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CES Gets Small

ceslogoOver at VentureBeat, Dean Takahashi is reporting that this year’s Consumer Electronics Show drew 110,000 employees, down 22 percent from last year’s event. The official, audited attendance figures won’t arrive for a few months, but unless they’re sharply higher it looks like this may have been the smallest CES in a decade or more. For those of who made the trek to Vegas, smaller is in some ways better–it’s fewer bodies to compete with in taxi lines, and fewer bodies trying to elbow their way by you on the show floor. But it may also be one more piece of evidence that the era of humongous trade shows is coming to a close. We’ll know for sure next year, if the economy is in at least slightly more robust shape and CES 2010 shows a similar decline in attendance.

I’m not predicting the imminent death of the show, and if it goes away I’ll miss it. But in my time in this business I’ve seen the death of Comdex (which was once held twice a year), PC Expo (ditto), and Macworld Boston–and hey, the first CES I attended was the last Summer CES in Chicago, which was held back in 1994. I fully expect to outlive the current CES, too–at least in its current overwhelming and exhausting form.


Dueling Keynotes: Phil Schiller at Macworld Expo vs. Steve Ballmer at CES

(if you came here looking for our live coverage of the Macworld Expo 2009 keynote, head over here.)

Macworld Expo 2009 Phil Schiller Keynote

Next week will see two tech trade show presentations by guys who are following very tough acts: Phil Schiller’s first (and last) Macworld Expo San Francisco keynote and Steve Ballmer’s first (and probably not last) Consumer Electronics Show one. Maybe I have a soft spot for underdogs–albeit extremely wealthy ones–but I’m actually looking forward to attending and covering both gentlemen’s speeches. (Trivia: I never went to any of the many, many keynotes by Bill Gates at Comdex and CES conferences that I covered.) I’ve already written a bit about the two keynotes; after the jump, a more formal comparison in the form of a T-Grid.

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Next Week: Two Big Keynotes, Twice the Live Coverage

As usual, this year will kick off with two of the biggest tech shows of the year, Macworld Expo and CES, scheduled so tightly that they overlap. But for the first time, Macworld Expo’s keynoter will be Apple marketing head Phil Schiller and CES’s will be Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. If nothing else, it marks a major changing of the respective guards (Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, respectively). And I’ll be at both speeches, covering them in real time. Save yourself all that running around between San Francisco and Vegas and join me–whatever the news is, I’ll let you know just as soon as I did.

Pages for the two live events are now live–and if you click on one (or both) of the promos below, you can even sign up to be reminded by e-mail before they start.

Macworld Expo 2009 Phil Schiller Keynote

CES 2009 Steve Ballmer Keynote

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