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On CES 2007 January 12, 2007

Posted by fukumimi in electronics, IT, Mobile.

Seeing I wasn’t in Las Vegas for CES this year (I promised myself I will make the trip next year), CES attendance was remotely via internet media coverage.

Whilst that meant I didn’t get to see much of the really interesting stuff going on at the grass roots level, most of the eye candy got sufficient coverage so I could get my tech geek fix.

1) On Apple’s cellphone

Yes, it looks nice. Real nice.

But GSM? Multi-year exclusive contract with Cingular? Not coming to Asia until 2008?

Again, Apple shows it can do the slick consumer product and presentation, but it is very old school when it comes to its business strategy. It seems it is another walled garden approach. I suspect the thing won’t even be a real “smartphone”, and will limit third party development to the sandbox of widgets and/or J2ME applets, not nearly the same kind of freedom as made available on real smartphone devices. I guess the thing is targetted not at business users but at Apple fans.

Anyway, technologically, there is really nothing new here. It shows again that UI is what really defines Apple. Full points there, at least as far as the screen GUI is concerned.

However. It doesn’t appear that a tactile feedback mechanism is incorporated into the screen, which will probably slow things down. Audible feedback? Not an option, if one expects to use one in public. I will grab any “iPhone” whose user dares to use one in my vicinity with some lame beeping audible feedback mechanism engaged, and throw it on the ground and stamp on it until the screen breaks. I’d do the same for any user who has a similarly annoying beep beep emanating from their conventional phone. I guess they could keep their headphones on at all times… In any case I just can’t see how the touchscreen can be made as easy to use to type text as even a physical tenkey (which permits blind touch typing) let alone a physical QWERTY thumb keyboard.

Apple going ahead with using “iPhone” although they knew Cisco owned and markets a telephony device of that name? Shows balls, but I have one word for Apple. Hypocrites. They get the lawyers go after anyone within a country mile of any of their trademarks, and then they pull this. Perhaps they think that the voice of their adoring fans will sway the courts. Think again. Cisco isn’t about to be bullied into submission. Cisco is twice as big as Apple.

Steve Jobs saying that phone calls are mobile’s killer app? Wrong answer. ESPECIALLY for the users right bang in the middle of the user profile for the “iPhone”. I’m sure the cool and trendy teenagers and twentysomethings will get annoyed when they realise that it is much more difficult to type their SMS messages and email. I didn’t see much typing being demonstrated at the demo….. I wonder why…..

Wi-Fi is nice, but don’t expect it to be nearly as ubiquitous as cellphone coverage, so data browsing is going to be a nightmare even on EDGE. So much is made of the ability to access the web. I’m not convinced that zooming and moving around sections of a PC format webpage is anywhere near optimal. We have full PC webpage browsing on mobile phones here (with similar zooming and scanning capability), and I (nor hardly any of my acquaintances) hardly ever use it (even with the high resolution screen on the phone). When it comes down to it, content is about substance, not presentation, especially when you are on the move. Do you think you can read a webpage whilst walking with an “iPhone” more easily than with, say, an optimised cHTML page on i-mode? I doubt it. I think it is unavoidable that for user friendly browsing experience on the move, you’ll need to format customised pages for the phone. Despite the protests of graphic designers, the prettiness of a page (ie the use of rounded corners or pastels or overelaborate use of graphics) does not add informational value. Both service providers and users need to get over their stubborn insistence that the mobile web should be similar to the PC web. The reason the Japanese mobile web community has been thriving is fundamentally intertwined with the fact that no such false expectation existed.

2) What is it with those squat cylinders?

Is that like the new “in” look? Both Microsoft and Sony (VAIO VGX-TP1) had them on show. I guess they had to compete with Apple without ripping off the square with rounded corners look. The circle is the new square?

3) TVs

I wonder how much electricity Sharp’s 108V LCD consumes (and how much it costs). My guess? It is more expensive than Panasonic’s 103V PDP to buy, but runs on maybe 20-30% less electricity. Which would still mean drawing more than a kiloWatt of power, which is not very green at all. I wonder how they managed the backlighting of such a wide panel. I guess edge lighting with CCFLs around the perimeter just won’t hack it at those dimensions. So, that would mean either a wasteful CCFL array on the back plane, or a similarly positioned LED array. Former would mean increased energy consumption, latter, increased cost.

Bring on the next generation of RPTVs. Expect to see a 60 inch RPTV (with a depth of between 4 and 6 inches) at around the $2000 price point in about a year, with electricity consumption slashed to a third of that found in similarly sized FPDs based on competing technology.

4) Audio

Really not much to really get me excited here, lots of wireless networking on show, with “digital active” loudspeakers. Colour me sceptical. A vibrating box isn’t the best place to put sensitive electronics, and you still need to shell out for mains cabling, so it isn’t truly wireless in any case. It is OK for run of the mill stuff, but at the high end? Not convinced. I’m still looking to upgrade my CD front end, the search continues. Toying with the idea of a PC based system as discussed previously. (got a new cartridge for my record player last summer – but that is in storage because of the move)



1. Payara-Confessor - January 12, 2007

re the iPhone:
An interesting suggestion that has been made is that Apple are using the trademark infringement as cheap publicity (when they eventually back down how much will it cost them?) to ensure that everyone knows about the iPhone, even though later it may become the Apple Phone.

It has also been suggested that the 2G Cingular deal (US only?) is a deliberate crippler until Cingular move their 3G network video format to Apple’s and let video content be moved around via iTunes. The buzz the launch may generate may cause Cingular to move in just that direction too. [I imagine keeping the platform closed will stop enterprising developers from enabling simple DRM-less content transfers.]

The interface one is interesting. I assume they thought long and hard about the disadvantages of using a touchscreen yet still choose it. Who knows, perhaps they have a truly next generation interface firmware update up their sleeve and are just waiting until they get some decent market penetration until they roll it out. That or they want people to always have their visual attention directed at the phone…

…ayway, I am rambling. Happy New Year!

2. Chi Howe - January 14, 2007

On mobile phones: I feel what apple is doing for “iPhone” is nothing new in Japan, which is why Japanese have a hard time buying Mr. Jobs hype about “re-inventing” the phone. The revolution is well under way in Japan, where mobile are used for everything, from navigating one’s way home using GPS, buying movie tickets, watch live TV, charge card to ride train, updating blog, etc. “keitai” culture is well and alive in Japan, which is what distinguishes it from the US mobile phone market.

Apple’s iPhones are still on 2G, whereas Japanese are already on 3G. It was 3G that sparked the music download trend even here in Singapore.

3. Darren Beck - January 16, 2007

Wow, a post that doesn’t praise the iPhone that hasn’t accumulated 200 comments from raving Mac evangelists! I agree the thing looks great, but revolutionary?

I still don’t get the whole convergence thing, why would a I want a set of unrelated (apart from the obvious mobile or media labels) devices rammed into a single shiny box, with each being downgraded in the process?

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