This year I was lucky enough to go to CES in beautiful Las Vegas. While I’m sure you all know, CES is the Consumer Electronics Show, and it is one of the largest trade shows in the world. Everyone who is anyone is at this show (except Apple), and it has historically been a place for companies to reveal big new products. Microsoft in 2008 released the Surface and last year Palm released the Palm Pre. This year was kind of a dud in terms of large announcements but I wanted to throw up a post with some highlights.
Intel’s Core Chips go Mobile
In my opinion Intel is the big winner this year. They took there very popular i processor series and released the mobile version in i3, i5 and i7 flavors. Chatter is already abounding that these are going to find their way into the next revision of the MacBook Pro line; and I for one am really excited to get these beasts in a laptop. The new 27” iMac can be equipped with them and I can personally verify they SCREAM.
The most incredible thing to me at CES was the number of eReaders I saw. I personally walked by 10+ companies with either real eBook products, or demos of the eReader concepts. For those of you who don’t know, eBook readers, such as the Kindle of Nook, utilize a display technology called eInk in order to show text that is readable in full sunlight, has an extremely small electricity requirement, requires a small amount of data to fill a screen. The Kindle has been around for several years and has received mild success, but this apparently is the year for everyone else to jump in the ring.
I tried lots of these devices, and have also tried the Kindle at length. I personally don’t see a future for eInk. It seems like a fun technology with some definite advantages that people are hopping on but there are two flaws which will inevitably banish this tech from the market.
Refresh rate and Color.
These things are SLOW. Like way slow compared to any modern digital device. The refresh of the screen is choppy and has a minimum of a 1 second delay. Imagine the Sketch character from Toy Story 1 and 2 doing the “Draw” game with Woody. That is the kind of speed you get. Impressive if it was an etch-a-sketch annoying if it is supposed to be your digital display. This of course effects functionality as well. These devices seem a very long way off from playing any kind of respectable video and appear to have no possibility of color on the horizon. I am somewhat baffled by the popularity of these devices but there are going to be a lot of them gathering dust over the next few years as much better low light, energy efficient LCD and LED displays are released.
Tablet, Tablets Everywhere, but no Software to be Seen
Almost every major consumer electronics company (except for Apple) showed or hinted at some tablet device they are getting together for 2010. Lenovo came up with Skylight, a hybrid laptop, tablet combination. Dell showed off their Mini 5 to a lucky few, and Balmer showed off a bunch of “Slate” form factor PC’s to be released later this year. I saw Windows 7 running on these, I saw Android running on most. But my major problem is that no one seems to have put much time into the software for a device like this yet.
Android is totally open source. You could literally have your company completely skin it, much like HTC with Window Mobile, and create the kind of environment you envision. I only saw one actual tablet in person that had any kind of interface tweaking to facilitate the new form factor, but this is an area were some amateur dev can make their first million this year. If we assume for a moment that Apple releases some cool tablet style device that gains the public’s interest, the market will grow and grow. From what I saw at CES lots of people have hardware that utilizes standard Android, but what they are all missing is a special distro that rethinks the Android UI for a larger device.
This should be a red alert to all up and coming developers who want to make a name for themselves. Sit down and start developing android for a full resolution touch experience. I would bet that developers with this kind of stuff in their portfolios are going to be hot commodities this year. And who knows maybe you could make THE UI. Devs, start your engines.