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I’m finally back and nearly finished digging out from CES.  A lot has been written in the blogosphere about the show.  I had a great three days, and met a lot of people.  Spent part of one afternoon with fellow blogger Stuart Henshall strolling one of the halls.  It was great to finally meet in person.

There were really four things I took away from CES this year:

  1. VoIP has arrived.  I know that sounds a little self-serving, since I am in the industry.  However, VoIP was everywhere.  The most ubiquitous device was a VoIP enabled base station for cordless phones. Uniden, for example, unveiled a whole-house VoIP cordless phone system. Current generation “WiSIP” phones are expensive products because integrated chipsets aren’t available yet.  Rather than head down the path of trying to build WiFi phones with SIP signalling on the air, the cordless manufacturers have opted to take their multi-line cordless phones and ram an ATA into the base station.  What a cheap way to VoIP enable these products, and it can be done immediately before the cost reductions enabled when VoIP / WiFi chipsets expected next year come come to market. 
  2. The vision articulated at CES 5 years ago is finally becoming real. In 2000 we were rolling out ideas like UPnP, networked homes, and integrated interaction between the devices.  Microsoft was a bit player spending money wildly to get into the consumer electronics industry.  Today, the Microsoft booth at CES is nearly as big as the Microsoft motherships that used to land at Comdex in the mid 90’s, and it’s jammed with partners who’ve bought into the Microsoft vision and have built complementary products.   Products like media servers, networked sound systems, and control systems, and all driven from Windows Media Center Edition.  It’s been said that Microsoft wants to dominate the living room, which has had Sony and others barricading the gates.  However, it was obvious that Microsoft’s vision isn’t to dominate the living room — rather, they want to dominate your home.  And, they’re executing against that vision.
  3. The platform technology / innovation play has been executed, and convergence is real.  Innovation is now moving to the peripheral devices. We saw 1080p HDTVs, as an example.  Netstreams, for another example, has built a completely distributed whole-house audio system.  Amplifiers are embedded in tiny control panels in the walls, connected via IP, to speakers in ceiling.  No central controller is necessary — they simply seek out all available media sources on the network, and present them for you to play.  Cool!
  4. Miniaturization is the “new black”.  Whether it was Creative’s Zen Micro, or the wonderful OQO hand top, everything is getting smaller.  The OQO device blew me away.  It’s slightly larger than a deck of cards, with a slide up screen, and a thumb-board, like Blackberry.  However, it’s a full blown PC running Windows XP, with a 1Ghz processor, 256M of memory, and 20G of hard disk.  It fits in your shirt pocket. 

My biggest impression walking away from the show wasn’t novelty… it was continued execution.  That’s neat. 

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