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Ultrabooks and smart TVs are fine, but holographic talking windshields?
A somewhat scaled down Consumer Electronics Show still managed to pull huge crowds into Las Vegas to touch the latest gadgets and see the future of computing, or at least one possible future. CES always has a bit of a World’s Fair atmosphere. I fully expect to see flying rocket cars parked outside the convention center one day.
Of course the fact that Microsoft is not coming back to CES next year is big news, perhaps the biggest news, at least among vendors. Every company, big and small, wanted to try and grab the brass ring that the big M is abandoning, and scrambled to become the new headline act of the greatest technology show on Earth.
That crown seems to have landed squarely on Intel’s head, which enthralled guests with tales of ultrabooks, the latest and greatest version of the notebook computer. Early ultrabooks were available at the show, though none had everything that Intel ultimately wants to see in them, including voice and gesture recognition, touch screens, a thin and light frame, lots of communications options and even lighting quick boot times.
Why ultrabooks could be the next big thing
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Intel predicts that 40 percent of all notebook sales will be ultrabooks by 2015, and if they conform to the specs set out at the show AND (this is really important) have a good price, I think their estimates for sales are actually kind of low.
Apple didn’t attend the show officially, yet somehow seemed to generate a lot of buzz as if they were. That’s because the rumor mill churned up a doozy about Apple TV, which was supposed to be one of the last great projects that Steve Jobs worked on before he died.
Will the mysterious Apple TV let you talk to it, find shows you like, record programs it thinks you will enjoy without having to ask you about it? Will it surf the Internet to find content for you? Will it have a cool name like Siri? Who knows. But if Apple TV does exist, and I think in some form it must, then I can tell you what a really big story of 2012 is going to be.
Samsung isn’t waiting for Apple, and gave people a look at the SA950 monitor, which constantly scans for your laptop, keyboard and other devices and integrates them into the display when it finds them so it can become a nexus for your multimedia experience. And the whole series looks pretty cool too, as you can see in this video made by Samsung’s Ukraine division. The monitors are also 3-D models, which I am not totally wild about, but at least you don’t have to have the glasses plugged into the monitor, which most 3-D monitors require these days.
Holographic helpers -- on your windshield?
CES always has a ridiculous technology or three, and this year it’s a vision of the future that has drivers distracted by “helpful” hologram ads and services that pop up, of all places, on your car’s windshield while you drive. Forget all these new laws about texting and driving. Can you imagine how many people would wreck if a guy in a suit suddenly materialized on the windshield of their brand new Hyundai and screamed “Hey, you just passed a Taco Bell with a two for one lunch special! Turn around!”
Surprisingly, holograms did seem to be fairly big at the show, and this one, running on a standard iPhone, seems a safer bet for adding this technology into our lives. A Star Wars-like projection of your Siri personal assistant can’t be far behind, popping up when needed to let you know that, well, you just passed a Taco Bell with a two for one special.
One bit of a downer (and to loop this back to government) was the warning from Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski that the wireless spectrum would soon be experiencing a bad crunch that may pinch off many of the cool gadgets shown at CES.
This is a political gambit for sure, as the FCC wants more power to regulate how the remaining, and any new, frequencies are sold. But even so, it exposes a potential bottleneck that helped to dampen some of the over-the-top outrageousness from an otherwise upbeat show.