It is amazing but for the second year in a row CES is the dominant “computing” show on the planet. And all the gliches in the Bill Gates/Microsoft demo were an apropos indication of how the PC, surrounded by Beware of Pitbull signs, has ceded priority to the clever embedded device builders – be it the new Swiss-knife darling phone/camera/PDA/tunes-player or the compact harddisk drives sprouting more than iPod earphones or photo screens. Meanwhile, digital cameras and digital video appearing at the show were determined to replace the other category. Digital cameras have adopted image stabilizations and cached recording features drawn from the video world. Egads many of the new digital cameras are doing video as well. Not to be outdone, the video cameras are doing higher resolution still outakes from the stream of video images. Problem – the way the different camera vendors do this and at what resolution is currently a proprietary jungle. In contrast, digital camera vendors have a fairly standard storage format and resolutions for their video captures. But clearly everybody is aware of convergence and it is happening faster than Dick can say Spot on.
Or are they ?
The phone companies are exploring every tributary of DeNile as VOIP for $25.00 a month for unlimited service anywhere in North America gets boosted by phoneset makers that are adding Wifi and other mobile phone-like connectivity: anywhere around the house and host, public “VOIP phone hotspots”. Given the generally high and improving quality of VOIP on demo at CES(as good as if not better than mobile phone conversations), it will start to make the shortlist for a lot consumers this year. And small businesses, the coveted market of so many competing electronics and computing vendors, will start to turn to technology from many new names like Lingo, Soyo, Vonage, Kiwi sprinkled with a few familiars like Cisco and Net2Phone. The phone cost savings for businesses as well as consumers are just too large to ignore. The mobile wave has some new found competition.
But CES is showing that convergence in mobile phones is coming on with a vengeance. Samsung is demonstrating a phone with camera, video, Bluetooth as well as WiFi connections. And Sprint and Verizon are competing head to head to make their version of Audiovox 6600 more feature rich beyond phone, WiFi, and PDA support with complete, but tiny Qwerty keyboard and extra software goodies. Voice activation of mobile phones enters phase 3 with devices from several vendors including powerhouse Motorola. Meanwhile, the videophone from NewYorks 1964 Worlds Fair will finally be reaching consumers with devices from Motorola, D-Link and Vialta costing $300-800 and adding $15-30 to your monthly bill. Surprisingly, video phones are not too hefty and deliver TV quality ouput but currently require matching videophone sets. Again a number organizations from insurance, through security, to travel will be interested in these beauties.
Radio waves will be hummming just out of hearing as WiFi and broadband meet to supply LAN connectivity, last mile links to consumer households, and mobile/portable convenience for all sorts of devices from printers to VOIP phones (see above) to laptops and PCs. The latest round of WiFi devices will extend the range, increase the clarity and reduce the cost of making devices mobile while starting to address the security issues associated with making one of the hops in a telephone, video, or Internet data message open to any and all with the appropraite tech savvy.
So just like in the old PC days, consumers are leading business organizations in the adoption of new embedded processing; radio-powered, mobile enabling WiFi; plus digital camera/video technologies packaged in amazing places (phones, PDAs, digital SLRs) among just a few of the technologies on view at CES. But most of this is happening with a host of new players acting as driving forces. Yes, by innovation AMD, Apple, Cisco, Motorola, Nokia, Panasonic, Sony and TI are in on the actions – but some major PC players like IBM, Intel, Microsoft are nearly absent or only present behind the scenes. The CES represents a passing of the torch from the PC world to the new embedded/WiFi world. It also shows how dependent organizations are for adoption of new technology by consumers and often unsung and unrewarded champions and early adopters.
(c) JBSurveyer 2005