The Future According to CES
Jan 16, 2012 5:00 AM PT
One of the things that unfortunately doesn't happen much since Bill Gates stepped down is a quintessential talk on what the future will look like, and I find I miss that. So, to fill my own need for such a talk, this week's column will focus on the interesting products I saw come out at CES and the future they represent.
I'll close with my product of the week: the most balanced Ultrabook so far, the Dell XPS 13.
If you looked in on the Nvidia booth, the future it envisions includes massive 17-inch displays in cars for entertainment, navigation and communication. Showcasing my car of the year, the Audi A7, as well as the car of tomorrow, the Tesla S (with that 17" screen), and the car I'll never be able to afford, the Lamborghini Aventador, Nvidia suggested that keeping your eyes on the road is going to become a lot harder.
The Mercedes Benz folks reinforced this by predicting the screen will be connected to the cloud from which it would be controlled and to which you'd send all your media to enjoy in the car or in the home. It also looks like the future will be full of Gull Wing Doors.
But who needs cars when you can have powered shoes? Yes, while still not anywhere close to that rocket belt we were supposed to all have by now or the fear of heights that we'd likely develop the first time we ran out of gas at 20,000 feet, these powered shows by SpnKiX look to be a lot of fun. Typically costing less than US$650 (and currently on special for $500, this particular product could make cars obsolete -- well, if you are willing to travel under 10 mph. I'm just dying to see someone get a pair of these through security.
Personal Spy DronesWhile you're powering up and down sidewalks and scaring the old folks, you might want to take a look around the corner. For that you'll have your own personal drone. The Parrot A.R. Drone is back with a second version that is even more fun than the first one.
Running on either an Apple or Android phone or tablet, this new version has an HD video camera so you can see how nicely that woman you are about to encounter is dressed before you run over her with your motorized shoes.
Privacy, we don't need no stinking privacy! Not when we have our own drones! This thing is begging for a spitball weapons pod.
We already knew we were going to be up to our armpits in Ultrabooks after all of the announcements last year, but HP argued with its stunning Spectre 14 that these piles of Ultrabooks will be made of glass.
Named after the agency that James Bond keeps blowing up (maybe they should change their name to "boom" because they are most known for exploding, thanks to Bond), this product suggests a future where technology and art are interchangeable.
And Waterproof Too
Stuff won't just be pretty -- it will throw off water like a duck. Two vendors showcased technologies that could be applied to devices to keep them waterproof. HzO makes a product that can be added during manufacturing, and Liquipel offers a service that makes your electronic baby water resistant.
The HzO stuff goes inside the product and the Liquipel stuff outside (an upgrade protects against scratching as well). I've lost a lot of things to the water over the years, and this could be a life saver -- particularly for those of us who buy tech for kids. And they'll be more likely to survive dropping daddy or mommy's gadget in the toilet in the future.
This will also likely be handy when global warming melts the icecaps and we're all living in water world.
Windows Windows Windows
Future phones won't be from Apple or running Android if Nokia and Microsoft are to be believed. The Nokia Lumia 900, which clearly is distinctively different from the iPhone, was turning heads at CES. A number of folks thought it was more advanced than the iPhone and better looking too!
I think I know some Apple folks who will translate this into thinking the future is made up of folks who have no taste, but personally I like the new phone -- and it is sure nice to be talking about Nokia other than in past tense.
Finally, in the near-term future, we'll be up to our armpits in Windows 8 devices. that will have either ARM or x86 processors in them, given Nvidia, Qualcomm and TI showcased ARM-powered tablets and very thin laptops running the pre-beta OS.
Not to be outdone, Intel pushed back with phone announcements from Motorola and Lenovo promising smartphones and tablets running on x86. Maybe the future will have the biggest technology war we have yet seen?
One More Thing
Oh, and one more thing, Qualcomm has had a number of wins with its Marisol technology in China for e-readers like the Kindle Fire, suggesting that in the future, we can actually enjoy our tablets outside! Some of these things are awesome!
Granted, given it is kind of chilly today, that isn't as attractive as it will be -- but give it a few months.
Wrapping Up: What Does All This Mean?
Other than a lot of folks nursing hangovers from the CES parties last week, all this means change. Clearly, bigger displays in cars and more things that are connected to the cloud all the time, more folks zooming around but likely exercising less. (On the other hand, chasing zooming kids could be a form of exercise.)
It means less privacy as more and more things have better and better cameras, and what is looking like an all-out war between the x86 and ARM vendors, which makes the AMD strategy I predicted last week look even more interesting. Oh, and this technology will not only work outdoors, but also survive better outdoors -- and that means we can step out of our homes and offices more often.
Finally, IBM showcased a future smarter home in which everything is automated and safer. If it could also be trained to pay the mortgage, we'd be one step closer to heaven.
Product of the week: Dell XPS 13
I've been getting in a lot of Ultrabooks over the last several weeks, and there hasn't been a single one I didn't like. But finding one I loved has been elusive.
Each product seems to have its own unique strengths and tradeoffs. The small Asus is the most portable, but it is really too small to live on; the very light Toshiba is a tour de force in terms of technology, but seems fragile, and I really am looking forward to a product I can take outdoors.
The Dell XPS 13 represents the most balanced of the Ultrabook products. Clean, unmistakably Dell lines and a carbon fiber base drop it below three pounds -- but with Gorilla glass, it is one of the most robust of this class.
It has business features (asset tagging, TPM, corporate-imaging options) that make it useful to business and a full feature set (lighted keyboard, full port out, and a 300 nit display) that make it attractive to consumers.
When I used a prototype, what came across was that it was simply incredibly well balanced. Balance is important, particularly if you are nursing that post-CES hangover, so the Dell XPS 13 -- due in February and starting at less than $1,000 -- is my product of the week.