E-books: Get out before you freeze
|Plastic Logic's Rich Archuleta and the Que e-book.|
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 breathe to see what the other Steve—the one from Cupertino—shows 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.
Wireless video: warming up, far from hot
|LG's Full-HD Wireless TV, pitched as "wireless freedom".|
Once again, how to deliver wireless HD video between digital consumer devices at home remained an elusive target at this year's CES as more new variations of wireless video technologies hit the market, including ProVision Communications, Qualcomm and Quantenna with versions of the current 802.11n spec with multiple antennas targeting similar uses.
Nonetheless, with the second-generation chip sets rolling out from two leading competing wireless video camps -- one from SiBeam-led WirelessHD (60-GHz approach) and another from Amimon-led Wireless Home Digital Interface (using 5-GHz unlicensed band), a few big-name TV vendors made their choices public: Vizio with SiBeam's WirelessHD chip set for its LCD TVs; and LG with Amimon's WHDI chip using Amimon's wireless video modem technology.
Taeg Il Cho, vice president and director of digital TV research lab at LG Electronics, told EE Times that LG selected 5-GHz wireless video because the company wanted an "inter-room solution" through walls with no requirement for line-of-sight.
It's a big win for Amimon, because LG will offer Amimon's WHDI-based wireless video option not just in a single, high-end model but in a majority of LG's new flat-panel TVs launched this year.
But the flip side is that it's still "an option." By coming up with this "wireless-ready concept," LG can now afford to give consumers a choice to plug a wireless module in the back of their TVs.
Other leading CE vendors were mum on their wireless video technology decisions. Toshiba's highly coveted Cell TV, however, is "more likely" to use 60-GHz HD solution from SiBeam, according to Atsushi Murasawa, president and CEO of Toshiba America Consumer Products.
There is an app for that: heating up
Leading CE manufacturers are determined to emulate Apple's success with its Apps Store. Samsung and Sony are rolling out their own stores selling applications that will work across their product lines, including cell phones, TVs, Blu-ray players, computers and other personal digital devices.
Samsung TV customers can search and download Samsung apps via the TV sets integrated with Wi-Fi. The concept is basically an evolution of the company's Internet@TV scheme. The Samsung app feature will ship on the vast majority of Samsung TVs with screens 40 inches and above.
Meanwhile, Sony is launching what it calls "evolving TVs" that can download and run third-party applications. Using its new Sony Online Service (SOS), which is based on the existing server infrastructure, billing and login systems of its PlayStation Network, Sony will let its customers download apps, video and music.
The concept is evolving around two trends: proliferation of widgets on the Internet and a growing number of features and functions that are now enabled by apps.
Sony's Dash personal Internet viewer, although not initially connected to SOS, is driven by more than 1,000 free Internet apps, including news, calendars, weather, sports, social networking and e-mail.