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Jan 2012

CES 2012: top five highlights

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CES can be very interesting, or very uninteresting, depending on what sort of tech you’re into. Personally, I’m fascinated by most stuff, so it doesn’t take much to keep me glued to the screen during CES. Here’s my five highlights from this year’s show in Vegas (isn’t it oddly suitable how new tech is showcased in a city known for gambling?):

The Sony Concept TabletOh my god, this was a nice bit of kit. Separate keyboard (not a fan of keys I can’t actually push down into the chassis, but hey), nice looking chassis, and a series of coloured styluses. The highlight, without having seen it in motion, was definitely in the design. Sony make fantastic-looking technology without copying Apple (a first, lately), and although it’s likely to be expensive (it’s Sony), and this will likely pull in more than a few punters come release.

3D printersOne of them could even manufacture most of the parts required to replicate itself. What is this?! It’s certainly a nifty idea – 3D printing, in the home. My guess is that 3D Systems’ Cube will probably take home the gold once they’ve all launched, even at a whopping $1,299 for the printer itself. Still, if you want to make plastic objects, you could do worse!

Chromebooks Yep, still going – they’re pretty divisive, though. A complaint I heard is that it’s as heavy and large as a laptop, but only runs the bare minimum of apps and other tools, compared to a laptop with an OS such as OSX or Windows (yes, or Linux, calm down). It does look sweet, though, and as a Chrome fanatic, I can totally see it working – especially with major game releases popping up more and more often for the Chrome platform.

Smart watchesIt’s a tiny Android tablet, with a strap to anchor it to your wrist like a watch. Good lord, do I want one of these? Yes. The idea of having Spotify, Twitter and SMS as my three apps would mean… well. I can do this on my phone already (an HTC Desire HD), but god damn, do I want to use a watch face instead? Of course! Bring on the future! Flying cars for everyone!

Super smartphone battery lifeI like my phone – it’s big, it’s powerful, and it does what I need it to do. So, the downside to that is battery life. Mine’s not too shabby, but iPhone owners must be sick to the back teeth of watching the little green bar vanish all too quickly. iPhone tribute act (zing!) Samsung have stepped in and offered all-day battery life. If they can make good on this promise, they’ve got a winner. It might even push Apple to finally get its good battery tech (currently sitting in the Macbook and iPad region of its product catalogue) into the iPhone. Then I can switch! Maybe.

Those are my favourites. So it leads me to ask – what are yours?

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Jan 2012

Why do more people talk about the Oscars than CES?

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Not sure what CES would've announced, back then. Colour photography?Now, I understand that asking why more people talk about the Oscars than CES sounds like a pointless question, as most people’s answer would be “because it’s The Oscars, Christos.” But if you take a few minutes to read through the following post, you may realise that the aforementioned response is at best misinformed and at worst completely ignorant.

The Iron Lady came out last week, a biopic of Margaret Thatcher, the first and, so far, only female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Played by Meryl Streep, it will no doubt go on to clean up at various film award events across the globe, because it’s a film that offers the precise amount of grandeur and historical scale to tip the favour of the critics in its own direction.

On the other hand, CES is in full swing this week, and features a range of new electronic products, some of which millions of us will be using by the summer. Some of the announcements made at this event will change the way you ring your partner, watch television, or play videogames. But people don’t often discuss this event at all in most circles.

This strikes me as odd. People will comment on the various political events of the day, despite rarely (if ever) watching the Prime Minister’s Questions, because they effect us as individuals, through rising taxes, budget cuts, or new laws.

Yet the technology that powers our day – indeed, the technology allowing me to write this post, and you to read it – doesn’t seem to be celebrated and followed with interest by the vast majority of people who use it. We have, at times, been blessed with some tech-celebrities, in the form of Bill Gates, the late Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg, and they do draw the collective consciousness of the media-hungry human race towards the technology field for brief moments. It’s telling when even your strange uncle can tell you of his high scores in Angry Birds.

Yes, people are discovering games like Angry Birds, as well as Android apps and iProducts, at an alarming rate. Technology has swiftly and in a way never before seen, I think, turned into a fashionable concern. CES should be a catwalk, down which the latest hardware struts, hoping to wow the assembled masses with increased memory and more apps than the competition.

In an ideal world, we’d gather around the TV and catch the Microsoft keynote, in much the same way we’re content to do with other events more centred around showbiz. I hold out a small hope that we can engage with technology in the same way many of us engage with the topics of commuting, politics, religion similarly stimulating jump-off points for conversation. We’ll just have to make sure that the Android and iOS users aren’t sitting next to each other.

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