CES show remains cool despite cooling economy

You'd think the sky had fallen with all the reports of lower attendance, shrinking hotel room rates and no Bill Gates keynote (as well as no Steve Jobs keynote over at MacWorld) at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Despite the doom and gloom, there were still tons of new products announced with enough fanfare to make the hype-masters happy. Here are a couple of trends and products that piqued my interest:

1) Projectors get wicked small: At last year's show I got a sneak peek at the "micro-projector" or "pico-projector" concept, and this year we're starting to see products based on the concept. Nextar announced its LCOS micro-projector, the Z10 (pictured below), a US$300 projector that uses liquid crystal on silicon technology to produce images up to 640-by-480-pixel resolution, with a brightness level of between 7 and 12 lumens. The 1.5-pound Z10 includes a built-in speaker and microSD card slot, and can project images up to 20 inches (Nextar is selling a companion portable 20-inch screen for $40 — the PS-001).

Nextar thinks small with the Z10 microprojector

WowWee Robotics, which usually sticks to the robotic toy market, is getting a bit more serious with its ultraportable projectors. Teaming up with Texas Instruments, the company announced its Cinemin series of micro-projectors, which utilises TI's DLP technology. The series includes the Cinemin Swivel (three-hour battery life, 90-degree hinge for ceiling projection), Cinemin Stick (pico projector with internal memory and expandable SD card slot), and Cinemin Station (alarm-clock sized media center and iPod docking station).

While these devices may be consumer-oriented at first (showing iPod videos on a larger display, or backyard movie night in a tent, for example), it isn't much of a stretch to imagine mobile workers using these to display presentations and other videos to colleagues or sales contacts via their smartphones. We often hear talk about the "death of the notebook," the availability of smaller projectors that work with smartphones adds to the possibility that mobile workers can forgo their laptops.

2) Cisco's "push" into the home: Cisco has already been "in the home" with its Linksys division of home wireless routers, but apparently it's a big surprise that the company would like to now get into the living room with some new offerings. While the multiroom wireless audio system looks impressive (right up there with the Sonos and Logitech offerings), I'm more fascinated by the new Cisco by Linksys (a new branding name) Media Hub, a network-attached storage device that "gathers, organises and presents all the digital video, photos and music that users have spread amongst various devices in the home."

Starting at US$300 (for the 500GB version), the Media Hub aims to automatically search the user's home network for other media devices (including PCs and notebook) and present all the available digital media to the user in a single, browser-based location. Because users are probably duplicating their media files for backup purposes, when it comes time to play the song or view the photo, multiple versions of the same file often are displayed. This seems to alleviate that problem, understanding that "I just want to listen to Funkytown, I don't care where the file is located."

With remote access and its own automatic backup features, the Media Hub may be even more impressive as a way to show off photos than having to rely on online services. The "cherry on top" feature is that any new media files that get added to the system can be automatically copied to the Media Hub. I can't wait to try out the system.

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