Better late than never, eh? Yesterday was a full, full day at CES 2009, occupied mainly by the Palm Pre announcement, but we touched base with a lot of exhibitors and went to plenty of events that are worth talking about. On the other hand, the vast majority of you will be most interested in the Palm press conference fully videoed above. (Big ups to Serko for the feed.) We had more happening today, that’s for sure – chatting with Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Qualcomm and Sandisk, but that will come in our day 4 wrap-up.
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The morning started off with a visit to HP, since we got an invite to hit the show floor before things opened. Yeah, they’re mostly printers and computers (I certainly wasn’t holding my breath for breaking iPAQ news), but I did get to take a look at iPrint, their free remote printing application for iPhone. No fancy cropping or color correction, which is fine, but it would be nice to see something a little more full-bodied. They were pretty keen on keeping it simple, which isn’t a bad call by any means.
I had to scramble a bit to get to a meeting with Synaptics, who do a lot of back-end work on touchscreen mobiles. Their booth was tucked away amidst the rows of identical meeting rooms, but I managed to get there eventually. Luckily, they weren’t seeing much in the way of foot traffic, so the lateness didn’t bother anyone. We had a good long talk about multi-touch and the growth of touchscreens, so be sure to listen in on The Signal at the end of the show for our talk.
Of course, the biggie was the Palm Pre announcement. Will covered the most of it in his liveblog and full tour, but I gotta chime in – the thing is frikkin’ sweet. The worst thing I can say about it is a lack of microSD memory card slot. Aside from that, I could imagine that some folks might accidentally launch applications from the favourites dashboard when they were really trying to pull up the home screen, but that’s pretty hard to nail down at this point. Whatever, small potatoes.
Fact of the matter is, this thing rubs shoulders with the hardcore e-mailing BlackBerry, the open dev platform of Android, the processing power of Windows Mobile, and the smoothness of the iPhone. As far as I’m concerned, every major player has users to lose to the Pre and WebOS. Anything short of this announcement wouldn’t have been enough to pull Palm out of the rut they’ve been in, but it looks like they’ve successful risen from the dead, and shall henceforth be dubbed ZomPalm. (N.B. Do not confuse ZomPalm with those lame shambly-type zombies. ZomPalm is for sure one of the crazy rabid sprinters you see in 28 Weeks Later). It is easy to worry that expectations are fairly high at this point, and we’ll likely be disappointed at least a bit once more details come into focus. In the meanwhile, take a look at Palm’s Pre minisite for official info and availability notification.
After somehow surviving the exit stampede from the Palm press conference, I headed out to meet with the Wi-Fi Alliance. 387 million devices with Wi-Fi built in were moved this year, up 26% from last year, counting 250 certified mobile models, with about 50/50 split between feature and smartphones. One of the more interesting things that I got out of talking with these guys was actually after the interview; over the last couple of years, they’ve gone from having the thankless task of convincing manufacturers that phones needed Wi-Fi, to being brushed off as taken for granted in most projects. I couldn’t help but sympathize with these folks who have created something that is becoming as ubiquitous in mobiles as cameras – it’s such a huge step and a huge enabler that they really don’t get the credit they deserve, especially in a show with so many shiny eye-catching toys.
Just around the corner from the Wi-Fi Alliance meeting room was Wilson Electronics, who were announcing an iPhone product at CES. They’ve hooked us up with a 3G signal booster that we haven’t been able to get working just yet, but we’ll give it an honest-to-goodness chance before passing jugement. With so many people bitching about shoddy reception and dropped calls at the conference, a signal booster sounded pretty sweet. They’re mostly built for setting up in cars or homes, but work with both GSM and CDMA, and provide a boost to data and voice quality. For those folks living in (or frequently traveling through) the wireless boonies, these might be a worthwhile investment. Keep an eye out for a review soon!
That was the last official meeting of the day, so I wandered around and found the Gracenote booth, the guys who do MusicID on Sony Ericsson phones. While weaving through, I spotted a Bold, and giggled with glee (just a bit, mind you) upon seeing their app on there. Holding up your phone to music and getting lyrics, album art, and digital download links in return is just plain cool. Talked to them a bit about the trickier issues of licensing music abroad, since us in Canada are always boned with online content distribution channels like that. What I wouldn’t do for Hulu.ca…
At that point I was looking for a little something other than phones, so hopped downstairs to see if anything was going on gaming-wise. As soon as I walked in, Dolby was there, blasting away at the front entrance. I had nearly forgotten about Dolby Mobile, the initiative they were working on to include a massive boost in sound quality to select handsets. There were only a few phones supporting it, but I got the impression that more were on the way and that we would hear about them in Barcelona next month.
That’s about it for yesterday. The blame for late posting lays squarely on the shoulders of Kevin for feeding me gigantic burgers at ungodly hours of the night. Today’s wrap-up is on the way!
(Sorry about the lack of pics, my laptop exploded along with my snaps from the day. Check back later after the mechano-monkeys have had their hand at fixing the thing,)