CES: Day 1
As I mentioned, last night was the Digital Experience event, where a ballroom is taken over to be filled with reporters, vendors and lots of food. The latter is officially known as a Good Thing. But the event is, as well.
Rushed for time as I am at the moment here in the Press Room, here are a few random thoughts about a few of the more interest tech items I came across last night. There is no rhyme or reason to the presentation here, just typing away...
Karma is a small disk that lets you connect to WiFi wherever you are. (It's really for laptops and tablets which don't have cellular connections, as a mobile phone does.) The company has a deal with Sprint, which provides the cell connection that then is converted to Wi-Fi.) You could be anywhere where there's no WiFi, in the middle of a park, or perhaps the desert -- assuming it can pick up a cell signal -- and just log-in and connect. The device costs $149, and you have two options for data usage. Pay-as-you-go is $14 for a gigabyte of data -- and there's no time limit, it never runs out. If you use half of that, you could toss it in a drawer and take it out three years later and go from there. Or you can pay $50 monthly for unlimited data. It seems an intriguing back-up protection for always having online access -- though they said that some people use it for all their connectivity, period.
Kangaroo is an incredibly small computer. Basically a small device about the size of two cigarette packs, though thinner, with a detachable dock with two USB ports. The device isn't terribly powerful -- 2 GB of RAM, an Atom processor and 32 GB of storage -- but serviceable. But you can slip it in your pocket and take your computer anywhere. Then connect a keyboard and monitor to it, and you're fully set-up. With laptops so thin and light these days, it's usefulness is not as great as it once was, but it still has use for many, and is only $99.
Somewhat similarly, but on a different level, I got to see Microsoft's new Continuum technology in operation. This is what will let Smartphones that are Continuum-capable run like a real, full-featured computer. Right now, only the Microsoft Lumia 950 and its deluxe version (both of which run on Windows 10) will allow for this, but I'm sure more will come. To use the Continuum technology, there is a dock (which uses chips made by SlimPort, who had the booth for the demo) to which you connect the Smartphone, a keyboard and monitor. And then, bingo, you have real Windows 10 running. So, as I said, you now have a real, actual computer running Windows 10 in your pocket, that is your Smartphone. It was very impressive.
These days, most anything seems to be able to become "Smart devices." Some have real value, some odd. One that falls in between was the Ember "Smart Mug." This lets you change or pre-set the temperature of your mug, so that your coffee -- or soup, tea or hot cocoa -- will always be the temperature you want. It's an offbeat, though fun idea, that it comes at a pricey cost, $129.
Master Lock has a couple of Smart locks. They connect to your tablet or phone, to which you enter a code, and this is what opens the lock. This lets you give access to anyone, just by giving them the pass number. There are various protections built it, in case you don't have your tablet or phone with you (or locked them in your home!), and most seem strong, though it can get pesky if the battery runs out. There are protections, with lots of warnings when the battery gets low, and even if you miss them all, there's a way to jump-start the battery, but it's convoluted. A good device, though with some question marks.
And taking the "connected home" (a big theme at CES) to a different level is Singlecue. This lets you control your connected devices by using hand controls. I know that this is a feature that a lot of companies are trying with various devices, though I'm not yet a big fan. For a family with little kids waving their arms around all the time, or to screw with this, it seems a bit of a dicey risk. And having to remember what arm-waving controls are required seems more effort than might be worth it. But still, it's a interesting concept, and a different way of dealing with the "connected home."
Anyway, that's what stood out. There were some really nice new laptops and 2-in-1 convertibles (tablets/laptops) from Lenovo, Dell and HP, and other oddities, but that will have to do for the moment. More to come.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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