- 12 Jan 07, 02:02 PM
Throughout the Consumer Electronics Show, the team from BBC TV's technology show 'Click' have been filing video blogs.
They are a record of their experiences as they make sense of the vast array of gadgets on display here in Las Vegas.
Click here to see Spencer Kelly's video blog from Sunday 7th January
Click here to see Richard Taylor's video blog from Monday 8th January
Click here to see Chris Long's video blog from Tuesday 9th January
Click here to see Dan Simmons's video blog from Wednesday 10th January
Click here to see a five minute roundup of all the BBC's coverage from CES
- 12 Jan 07, 12:25 AM
Forget the snazzy bathing shorts, the new James Bond is a bit of a geek. He’s got Sony Vaio, a Sony camera, a SonyEricsson phone and a Sony GPS. Are you seeing a pattern here? Ah yes, the film was made by Sony. And shot on Sony cinecameras. Now what Sony’s doing with the new Bond movie is more than just product placement. The film is an illustration of the company’s entire corporate strategy. It’s called VERTICAL INTEGRATION. And like 007 himself, it’s a bit of a blast from the past.
Vertical Integration is when you try to do everything in the business value chain - from soup to nuts as they say here in Las Vegas. When Howard Stringer took over the ailing Sony, in 05, he bet the entire company on making the three divisions work together: entertainment, games and electronics. And from the look of things on the Sony stand at CES it is happening...
- 11 Jan 07, 11:39 PM
The Consumer Electronics Show has closed its doors for another year.
We round-up some of the gadgets and devices which caught our eye as we wandered around the three million square feet of show floor, and playing with a few of the estimated 20,000 products on show.
It lacks net access, you can’t play your music on it, there’s no way it will play video and it’s not even 3G – so why is the Motofone in our gadget round-up?
Simple - the Motofone is Motorola’s phone for what they call “developing markets”. In other words, the Motofone is designed for countries like India and China.
It will cost around $35 and sports a screen using cutting edge technology called ClearVision, which is designed to be cheap and durable.
The phone also has a user interface with voice prompts in local languages and is extremely well designed.
It looks desirable - forget whether this is a dumbed-down phone for the developing world; it’s simply a sexy phone.
- 11 Jan 07, 09:42 PM
I'm leaving Las Vegas in a few hours but I can't go without doing one thing. No, I've settled my bar bill and paid my gambling debts thank you, but I must name my technology hero of the week.
His name is Steve Adrain and you won't have heard of him - but let me explain how he's opened my eyes to new ways of working.
Back in 1985 I went on my first foreign assignment for the BBC. As an impossibly young news producer (I was about 14) I was sent to organise coverage of the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's state visit to Paris - like me, Gorby was on his first big business trip.
I was working with the distinguished correspondent Tim Sebastian, who'd just been ejected from Moscow on trumped-up spying charges. In those far-off days before 24 hour news, we were only expected to serve two main television news bulletins a day.
- 11 Jan 07, 12:06 PM
If you are sick of all the cables bulging from behind your hi-fi, the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show has the answer.
Click's Dan Simmons has checked out a wire-free TV - and come face to face with an electronic Elvis in the fourth video blog from the expo.
Click here to see the moment he met Las Vegas's most famous former resident.
- 11 Jan 07, 02:43 AM
CES is notorious as an event where this year's story is the same as last year's just with better resolution, higher definition and more connectivity.
So when I interviewed a senior member of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project who told me the group wanted to sell the machine to the general public, "hopefully next year", then I thought I had a real story on my hands.
The story was published on Wednesday with the headline "Public can buy $100 laptop".
If you look at the story now, however, it has a very different headline.
It now reads "$100 laptop could sell to public".
So why the change?
- 11 Jan 07, 02:35 AM
I've been fascinated to read the lively debate about Gates versus Jobs and the merits of the iPhone which followed my last two blog entries.
The impossibly shiny new device - on front pages around the world today - has inspired the Macheads and the Friends of Bill to don their weapons and charge into battle.
The case for the prosecution is that Steve Jobs' claim to have re-invented the telephone is absurd posturing.
There are already phones that do everything the iPhone promises and more, it isn't 3g , a two megapixel camera is now sub-standard and text input is going to be a struggle whatever the claims made for the revolutionary touchscreen.
One Windows fan called me to say he'd had his XDA for two years, phoning, surfing and taking picture to his heart’s delight.
"So what's new?" he sneered.
- 11 Jan 07, 02:19 AM
In retrospect I think I may have been a bit rude and I guess I could have been a bit more sympathetic to the view point, and, let's face it, I could have kept my trap shut. But then I didn't, so here I am.
Here at the centre of the shiny box universe we are privy to all sorts of treats - if you like nasty soggy rolls they are provided at lunch time and if you desire coffee; that's available too - so we aren’t starving.
As part of the entertainment there is a press room that has around a hundred notebooks running Windows Vista where the world's technology press goes to file stories, send e-mails - and in my case play a couple of rounds of spider solitaire.
It's entertainment if you like watching a bunch of journalists poring over keyboards muttering to themselves producing a soft cacophony of expletives, laughs and sighs.
Generally, though, it's a rum bunch up for a laugh.
- 11 Jan 07, 02:13 AM
Confession time. I only have a tape deck in my car.
This may seem surprising, for someone who surrounds himself with cutting-edge technology in the rest of his life.
I just enjoy driving too much. Flinging my ageing Saab round country lanes to the soundtrack of its wheezing turbo.
Not so delegates at CES in Las Vegas.
The automotive hall is full of "Pimped Up" vehicles with LCD screens and subwoofers filling every inch of interior space.
There's even a truck with TVs under the wheel arches. Presumably to entertain the thieves who are stealing its expensive looking alloys.
But the real buzz this year is "telematics".
It's one of those vague terms that you sense was dreamed-up first, before anyone was quite sure what it should mean.
No-one here is really able to define it.
Depending on who you ask, it's anything from GPS to having a full PC running in the dashboard.
One demo vehicle I looked at has a 1.6ghz dual core processor, 2GB RAM and a 120GB hard drive - that's more than my laptop!
For all the enthusiasm here, no-one actually talks about enhancing the enjoyment of driving.
I can't help feeling it's all about giving the A to B commuter something to distract them from the traffic jams and road-rage van drivers.
While that's fine for some… it's not what revvs my engine.
I'd sooner have more engine power than processing power anyday.
Now where's my tape box?
- 10 Jan 07, 03:37 PM
Coming to the Consumer Electronics Show for the first time and seeing the sheer scale of the event, I'm reminded of that line from Douglas Adams in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space.
To get a sense of the size of this event just replace the word "space" with "CES".
Buses ferry people from one end of the conference hall to the other and everywhere you go a swarm of humanity lugging their freebie bags, backpacks, leaflets, food, drink and USB memory sticks are with you.
Blogger Robert Scoble has filmed a great video of himself rushing from one end of the event to the other.
It took him 13 minutes to complete the walk - and that's walking in a straight line.
A typical wander will usually throw up half a dozen pieces of technology you want to stop and play with in any given 200-metre area.
I'm told CES will begin to wind down on Wednesday and Thursday but we'll still be here.
I'm still keen to talk to some British technology firms about their experiences, rounding up some more cool gadgets and talking to people about their "best of" from this year's show.
- 10 Jan 07, 01:28 PM
The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is a Mecca for music enthusiasts. The latest hi-fi attracts many. But for Chris Long from BBC TV's 'Click', the big draw is the fusion between technology and the craftsmanship - not to mention the talent there.
Click here to watch Chris's video blog.
- 10 Jan 07, 03:38 AM
Photos of gadgets may not be to everyone's taste but there is a pool of photos from CES collected over at Flickr, the photo-sharing website.
Take a look if you want to see some of the most-talked about products on show this year.
- 9 Jan 07, 08:03 PM
What makes hundreds of people queue up in the dark along a San Francisco street? You and I might think it's slightly weird to be a fan of a company - they want your money after all - but the cult of the Mac is so strong that some adherents were willing to wait through the night to hear the Word of Jobs.
Well, he certainly didn't disappoint them. It was an incredibly sure-footed performance (see my video report about this here
) - starting with a few swipes at Microsoft with an ad suggesting that installing Vista could be a life threatening operation for your PC.
When the launch of Apple TV the set-top box with wireless connectivity - was rushed through in the first quarter of an hour you knew that something big was coming.
- 9 Jan 07, 07:50 PM
The Consumer Electronics Show may encompass almost every piece of technology on the planet - but it's the gadgets and devices that steal the show.
Here's a round up of some of the cool and decidedly pointless pieces of tech that I've encountered on my travels.
MOBIBLU CUBE 2 and BOXON
Video on the go has been around for a while - in mobile phones, iPod, MP3 players etc - but now they have become fashion accessories.
The Cube 2 and Boxon are two video players that are so small you could easily use them as jewellery.
Korean firm Mobiblu claim the Cube 2 is the world's smallest video player - it is a mere 25mm by 25mm and weighs 18 grammes.
The Boxon is a little bigger - at 49mm by 12 mm - but it does come with internet telephony software built-in, an FM tuner, radio and voice recording.
Who would watch video on a player so small? The makers believe teenagers will want to use the devices as fashion accessories.
The screen is suprisingly clear and uses OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technology.
Both models have up to 2GB of storage - enough for some TV programmes, a film or two and plenty of music videos - and costs around $129 for the most souped-up model.
At the moment it is Korea and US only but the company is in Las Vegas looking for partners in Europe.
When the Zune from Microsoft was released there were complaints that its wi-fi capability didn't mean you could download songs on the go.
The Connect is perhaps the device the Zune should have been.
With its built in wi-fi you can stream internet radio stations, recommend and swap songs with friends, download songs wirelessly.
The device is released in the US in March and will cost $249.
If you can't wait for Apple's iPhone perhaps this is the device for you....
Also spotted at CES...
- 9 Jan 07, 04:43 PM
Sometimes silence speaks volumes.
At a press conference for the Blu-ray high definition DVD group on Monday the world's biggest film studios were on hand to give their backing to the format.
The big wigs stood in turn to give their support to Blu-ray, waxing lyrical about the format's strengths and successes.
But where do they stand on the issue of "managed copying"?
Part of the Blu-ray - and rival HD-DVD - format's copy protection system, called AACS, is a proposal to allow consumers the ability to copy a disc to a hard drive and then play it on different players or devices that have been authorised by the user.
It's a system similar to the way iTunes handles downloads - you can buy it on one computer and let other computers in your network share the song.
But in the rush to get HD-DVD and Blu-ray out the door last year managed copying slipped off the radar.
"So what are the plans now?", I asked at the press conference.
Silence. More silence. Executives looked at each other, at the desk and anywhere than at me.
Finally, someone spoke.
Ron Saunders of Warner Home Entertainment said: "We are just researching what managed copying can do."
David Bishop of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment said that managed copying was part of "our long term strategy".
In other words: don't expect to be given the right to make personal copies of Blu-ray DVDs you have bought any time soon.
- 9 Jan 07, 02:58 PM
The second of our video blogs at CES from the BBC Click team is now live.
Click here for the latest episode.
- 9 Jan 07, 02:49 AM
Here in technology world life is different to other places, where as other worlds have old wooden, dusty ways of doing things - most of them in black and white - all our stuff is shiny and new, and in millions upon millions of colour.
Thus it will come as no surprise to you that we are not using ordinary ways of sending our pictures back to the UK (or the Old World as we now call it). No longer are we strapping rolls of film to transatlantic carrier pigeons. We are using the internet.
Now when we did a programme from Japan back in late 2005 we tried this out for the first time - and it worked (no one was more surprised than us). We would shoot video, then transfer it to our laptop and then put it on the web via X-Drive.
- 9 Jan 07, 02:43 AM
Okay, I've had enough. 48 hours in Vegas with too many chips, too little sleep, too much trudging past slot machines where bug-eyed grandmothers are investing their life savings.
So I'm heading to San Francisco to hear Steve Jobs at Macworld.
Another city another keynote - and more frenzied fans cheering obscure new software features. I've sat through presentations by both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and always feel a little like an agnostic at a revivalist meeting.
But it is an interesting contrast of styles and personalities. Gates is not one of the world's great orators - but he wins the crowd over because they sense instinctively that he's one of them - a geek at heart.
You know that he really loves those new features in Vista - "really neat" - and a small part of him wishes that he were still coding rather than travelling the world as a digital visionary.
- 9 Jan 07, 02:38 AM
I'm sceptical about the supposed wired home revolution.
Bill Gates tells us that Windows Vista will allow us to access our music, movies and photos throughout our houses.
Everything from your Xbox 360 to your toaster will be spewing out high definition video.
Apple's promising a similar future using iTunes and its forthcoming iTV box.
Problem is... it all relies on us investing in one company's version of the connected home.
Last weekend I connected my Xbox to my PC.
Result - I could watch all my videos recorded in Windows Media format and play MP3s without digital rights management.
So what about all my Quicktime videos, DIVX, MP4, 3GP? What about my music downloaded through iTunes?
Tough luck. I'll need to re-encode everything into a format that Windows likes. Or just give up.
Things are unlikely to be any different with Apple.
Yes, their box will seamlessly stream movies and TV shows downloaded from iTunes. I wonder how well it will it will cope with the 20 other video formats scattered about your hard drive.
Once again it will be left to the tweakers. Those third party software and hardware guys who always end-up saving the day.
Someone will create an add-on to Microsoft and Apple's products which solves the problem... but it's all too bitty.
The big software companies need to drop their guard for a while and and cater for as many of these formats as possible.
Otherwise the revolution will definitely not be televised.
- 9 Jan 07, 01:45 AM
The shaving mirror in my hotel room is magnifying my face by about 25 times its normal size. Like everything else in Vegas it knocks its puny British equivalent for six. On close inspection this morning I found that, sometime during the past 46 years, and quite without my knowledge, fine blond hairs had grown out of my ears resembling a biological specimen so precisely that I was thinking of sending a photo of them to my friend, who's a geneticist, as a spoof of the DNA double helix. But now I know what that mirror is trying to tell me: beware, boy, because televisions are about to get very, very big.
At Sony's press conference last night they unveiled the prototype of an 82 inch LCD flat screen television. Unlike the chavvy bigscreens most of my friends under the age of 30 insist on hanging above their mantlepieces, these new Sony Bravias are also High Definition - so you can hardly even see a pixel, even at close range: it looks like an incredibly sharp digital photo, but it's moving.
Hence, be very afraid. Those strands and follicles I discovered in the mirror will soon be visited on you and your family in your living room. And Jeremy Paxman's famously quizzical eyebrows will be the size of two giant squirrels magnifying his scepticism to a possibly terrifying scale...
- 8 Jan 07, 09:39 PM
I've spent the morning with the big boys at CES - Microsoft and Yahoo.
Microsoft is giving more details on its internet TV plans, especially the ability to get TV over the net to your Xbox 360 games console.
I'll be writing more about that in a feature on the digital home for later in the week.
Yahoo was showing off a new service for mobile phones called Yahoo Go.
They want to improve the experience of using the internet on a mobile phone - which is generally a poor way to access information.
"Everyone knows that mobile internet sucks," Steve Boom, senior vice president for broadband and mobile at Yahoo, told me.
Yahoo Go is an application you can download to your phone - more than 400 phones will be able to run the software by the end of the year - and it acts as a gateway to the internet.
The idea is based around the widget approach - the little utilities that run on PCs or Macs in the background.
The interface is easy to navigate and you can choose the widgets you want to use - from news to sport, weather, maps, local information etc.
Yahoo is stressing that it's an open approach - anyone can build widgets for Yahoo Go and people can personalise their experience.
"This is about bringing the open internet to the mobile phone," Mr Boom said.
He also stressed that mobile operators needed to bring down the walled garden approach and let people surf freely on phones, if the mobile web was going to take off.
On a different note: I know I'm focusing on the bigger players so far at CES but it is only half way through day one officially. I hope to get a sense of what the smaller players, especially some British firms, are up to later in the week.
If there is anything in particular you want me to look at, please let me know.
- 8 Jan 07, 09:22 PM
How many of you bought a high definition television set this year? Did you make sure you bought one with the HD Ready logo just to be sure you were buying a set that "future proofs" you against further change?
Well I have a bit of bad news for you. Every television manufacturer here at CES is now trumpeting something they are calling "Full HD".
I bought a high definition TV this year and I was confident that my TV was capable of displaying full HD, at least no-one told me it was "less than full HD".
So what is "full HD"?
Basically it's a TV capable of displaying a resolution of 1080p - 1920 × 1080 or about two million pixels.
Many televisions in the last year had a top resolution of 1080i - a slightly less high quality resolution where the lines in the image are shown sequentially instead of all at once in the case of 1080p.
So does it mean your TV is defunct if it can't display 1080p? Absolutely not.
You would only spot the difference between 1080p and 1080i if you were viewing content in that format on a TV over 40 inches in size - and even then it's subjective to some.
But the TV makers have got a new feature to sell and of course they want to charge a premium for it.
So if you haven't got 1080p, don't lose any sleep over it.
- 8 Jan 07, 07:45 PM
The technology journalists at BBC Click are filming a daily video blog from CES - giving you a sense of the atmosphere and colour as well as the latest news from the technology show.
The blog will run from Monday to Thursday this week and most days will be found first on the BBC News website Technology page.
Click here to watch.
UPDATE, Tue 11:00: Click here for the latest episode.
- 8 Jan 07, 05:19 AM
Bill Gates was the hottest ticket in town tonight - so hot that in order to see him you had to queue not once, not twice, but three times.
I say queue when in fact I mean loiter because the organisers at CES didn't want people to queue.
They told me that after I had loitered for a while to pick up my voucher for the keynote speech; a voucher which then entitled me to preferential waiting to get into the lobby where I was to wait for access to the hall to see Mr Gates.
But before I could get to the stage I had to wait at the foot of some escalators for an hour before anyone was allowed up.
I was joined by about 300 other people who had also engaged in a bout of formless waiting.
"Shouldn't there be a queue," I asked one of the kindly CES organisers. "No, we don't want people to have to wait in line. Everybody will be allowed up at 5," she explained.
And so chaos ensued. People just formed an impromptu mob at the foot of the escalators, despite the protests of security staff at the Venetian hotel, who belatedly tried to get everyone to form an orderly queue.
And once we were allowed upstairs we then had to wait for a third time outside the doors of the ballroom where the event was being held.
As one journalist commented, parodying a much-seen advert for Microsoft's new Vista operating system: "The ow starts now!".
So was the three hour wait to see the world's richest man and genuine visionary worth it?
Not really. It was all very interesting as Mr Gates spelled out his vision of connected experiences.
But it lacked a bit of zing, if I'm honest.
The keynote also featured a video of lots of smiling people - looking suspiciously like models - engaged in the jolly japes of using connected technologies.
It should have been cool. It should have been aspirational.
But it actually made the technology look a little dull and clunky.
- 8 Jan 07, 05:13 AM
Now THIS is ironic - although, knowing my luck, having just written that there is a very good chance that what actually happened isn't the precisely the dictionary definition of ironic.
On Saturday myself, Richard (the show's boss), Spencer (presenter) and Mikey our cameraman were shooting bits and pieces for the programme. We'd got permission to shoot in the Venetian ("Resort, Casino, Hotel") - truly a monument to Las Vegas architectural hyperbole and spent a long afternoon traipsing around a pretend Venice, resplendent with a canal, gondolas and singing gondoliers.
- 7 Jan 07, 09:30 PM
Hands up anyone who thinks blogging is a waste of time? Okay, put your hands down.
Hands up anyone who was invited to interview Bill Gates today? Ah, there are five people over there who have met the boss of Microsoft.
And who are they? Yes, they are bloggers.
Writers from Kotaku, Engadget, Gizmodo and Joystiq, together with Robert Scoble, an ex-Microsoft employee and blogger extraordinaire, sat down with Bill Gates today to chew the fat ahead of his keynote tonight.
It's an indication of how influential bloggers are in the technology market. Microsoft is not stupid - it knows that these bloggers speak directly to a large community and are admired for their honesty, cynicism and knowledge of subject matter.
Are they all trained journalists? I don't know. Does it matter? Possibly.
One thing I do know is that the BBC was not granted an audience with Bill Gates at CES this year. We will - hopefully - be speaking to him later this month when Vista launches globally to consumers.
So if you want to find out what they asked him and what he told them, keep an eye on the bloggers.
- 7 Jan 07, 06:10 PM
"There's a lot of women in there," the taxi driver told me after I emerged from CES clutching my orange backpack and press pass. "Really? I didn't notice many," I replied. It was early morning and the conventioneers are setting up. There is a kind of waddle people do who produce and erect technology shows, and it involves holding a Starbucks in one hand, your mobile to your ear in the other and a large bag carrying your laptop hangs from your shoulder to your waist. And, let's put it this way, when Johnny Vegas chose his stage name, he was probably inspired by the bodymass index of some of these guys. So what did the driver mean?
"The booth hoochies," he expanded. "They wear a lot o' negligees and they hit on ya when you approach the stall. I never been in there but I seen 'em leaving." But this must wait until tomorrow. For now we are gearing up to present Newsnight from the Consumer Electronics Show, as part of Geek Week 2.0 - our celebrated and notorious annual take on technology. As it's all hi-tech we are planning to go live over broadband, though the techhie people on the BBC team have told me I must not move around as it breaks up the picture....
- 7 Jan 07, 05:52 PM
A few years ago BitTorrent was being discussed in the same earthy tones reserved for Napster back when it was turning the music industry on its head, helping people pirate music for free.
BitTorrent is a program which makes high-speed transference of large files across the net simple to do.
Unsurprisingly it was soon adopted as the program of choice for people wanting to distribute copied versions of films and TV programmes.
But BitTorrent the company has successfully turned itself into a player in the digital media world of the 21st Century and has done a number of deals with content providers to distribute their programmes, films and videogames using the BitTorrent software.
Netgear, makers of routers, modems, and digital media devices, has now teamed up with BitTorrent to "promote video downloads streamed to high-definition TVs".
What that means is that legal content will be delivered via BitTorrent to a new device unveiled by Netgear at CES - the Digital Entertainer HD.
The machine is basically a wi-fi-enabled super-set top box. It can connect to your PC over your home network and access movies, photos and music stored on the hard drive and then play it on your television - and in high definition too.
The player can also act as a personal video recorder - allowing you to record your favourite TV programmes direct to the device.
Vivek Pathela, vice president of product marketing at Netgear, was suitably jubilant about the device but reserved his greatest enthusiasm for one particular feature.
"You can watch YouTube on your TV," he cried.
Yes, the Digital Entertainer HD will let you access You Tube clips and watch them on your television.
Apparently the ability to watch American youth shove mentos mint sweets into Diet Coke bottles is apparently a big selling point.
On a wider note, many of the functions of the Netgear device are expected to form part of Apple's new iTV player - to be unveiled in a couple of days.
I'm guessing that there will be a lot more attention given to the iTV than to the Digital Entertainer HD.
The battle for control of the living room in the digital age is far from over.
- 7 Jan 07, 05:30 PM
A day full of press conferences, meetings and ending with Bill Gates' keynote speech began with LG giving people the first look at its much-hyped, high definition DVD player that can play both HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs.
Dr H.G. Lee, chief technology officer at LG, said the player "would end confusion for consumers".
The two formats are incompatible with one another and are backed by two rival consortiums of technology firms and movie studios, with only a few players straddling both.
The Super Multi Blue player uses technology developed by LG to read both discs; a feat achieved by having two different lenses and two different lasers in the machine.
It is priced at a premium of $1,199 (£650) and so is a long way from becoming a mass market product.
But it could help the growth of high definition DVD, which is not developing as quickly as the industry wants - hardly surprising given the fractured nature of the market.
Dr Lee likened the new machine to Superman - the superhero dressed in red and blue to represent the blue disc of Blu-ray and the red disc of HD-DVD.
The product is released in the US in February and Europe by the end of the year.
We'll see if Super Multi Blue really does have super powers soon enough.
In an encouraging sign, Dr Lee also said the technology in the player could be licensed to other manufacturers and he said that there were no intellectual property issues preventing other firms from developing their own dual-format machines.
Could the high definition DVD madness be close to an end?
- 7 Jan 07, 01:26 PM
As I pushed though the seething masses of techno hacks at last night's CES Unveiled preview show - overhearing some of the veterans complaining about the standards of the free food and backpacks - I started to become anxious.
Did I really have the language skills to cope in Vegas? No, it's not about knowing the difference between Texas Hold 'Em and Seven Card stud or whether to order your eggs "easy over" or "sunny side up".
It's about speaking geek.
A Babel of acronyms and codewords - from UWB to HDMI to 802.11n - filled the air. I watched as a journalist and a salesman from one exhibitor batted increasingly complex terms across the net , each apparently trying to batter the other into submission with his superior command of geek.
I left them to it - and headed to my first conversation of the show with a company showing off its wireless speakers. I was doing fine - but the salesman did keep going on about "you pee and pee...". What?
Oh right - universal plug and play - UPnP.
Having negotiated that linguistic hurdle I moved on to a stand displaying a system to distribute one HDTV signal around a home - quite a big theme here. But when the talk turned to "simultaneous Gigabit ethernet and IEEE 1394 connections over Coax", I turned pale, made my excuses and moved on.
Far too many in the technology community speak a language that is a barrier to understanding. Now I suspect that many of you reading this blog have a deep knowledge of the subject - in other words you speak fluent geek - and may feel patronised if we start translating every term.
My problem is that I am broadcasting to a mass audience - the five million or so who watch the BBC's main television news bulletins - and we know that most of them don't speak geek. Every day I have intense discussions with editors who want me to explain even the simplest technology terms - we've even argued over whether the word "broadband" is understood by most people. While nearly half the homes in Britain have it, that leaves millions who don't and may need it explained.
When I went out on to Oxford Street in London on Friday to ask people about the battle between Blu-ray and HD-DVD - we were previewing the launch of a dual format player here - just about everyone I stopped looked at me as if I'd landed from another planet speaking fluent Venusian.
And when we ask viewers and listeners to send in e-mails, we still get plenty of complaints - by letter or phone - from those who have yet to join the online society.
Pretty complex new technologies are now arriving in our homes - and in explaining them we tread a difficult line. We want a wide audience to understand what we're saying - but we could end up trying the patience of the minority who really know and care about the subject.
But there's a simple message to the thousands of companies hawking their wares here - if you want to get into my reports, you'd better speak English, not geek.
- 7 Jan 07, 02:09 AM
The first official Consumer Electronics Show events are underway, with 400 people crammed into a room designed to hold half that number and everyone wearing the official press backpacks - bright orange and black and causing mayhem as people blunder into each other like weebles.
The luminous backpacks give the room the feel of a field trip by Italian school children.
The event is ostensibly a show and tell for a number of exhibitors wanting a leg up on the grand opening of the CES show floor on Monday but with around half of the room present to get some free food and wine it quite literally is a bun fight.
The backpacks are also the subject of much grumbling - some show veterans are complaining that last year's bags were much better and came with....wheels and a retractable handle.
So the technological talking point at CES so far is the lack of wheels!
The products on display were a real mix of the hi-tech, low-tech and what the heck?
Netgear and LG are the two biggest firms at the sneak preview - the former showing off high definition video streaming products which uses the electrical network in your house rather than cables or wi-fi.
Netgear believes its Powerline system gets round the problems wi-fi networks have currently with streaming large amounts of data and also the unsightly trail of ethernet cables.
LG was demonstrating a new phone to a camera crew which - like many others on the market - can receive TV pictures. I tried to take a photo and get some more info but a PR told me it was embargoed until tomorrow (Sunday). So I guess I'm breaking the embargo by about five hours - but I'm willing to take that risk.
As always the most popular items on show were the most bizarre.
WowWee, makes of the RoboSapien robot, were showing off an Elvis head, which sings and delivers catchphrases.
It will sell for a hip-swivelling $349 (£185) and comes with just eight songs and around 30 phrases. It has sensors in the eyes to react to people and you can plug your MP3 player into it and it will react to the music.
Viva Las Vegas indeed.
UPDATE: Thanks for all the help with my spelling and grammar. The coffee and jetlag are indeed playing havoc with my mind.
- 6 Jan 07, 06:14 PM
34,000 feet over the Atlantic just passed Godthab near Foxe Basin.
God, I'd forgotten how much I hate this. The crack of dawn start, the madness of the airport, the hours sitting in an airline seat designed for an anorexic midget. But this is what we do: our annual pilgrimage to the show they call CES. One of the largest consumer technology shows on the planet.
It's the Mecca, if you excuse the theological throw away, for the nouveau-geeks, the new breed of suburban nerd that since the advent of Google have become the new technology gurus.
(Of course at the other end of the swimming pool the proto geeks are rolling their eyes and slapping their foreheads when it becomes apparent the new guys don’t realise that mp3 is an MPEG 1 layer - Google it, become an expert yourself).
Thus at CES a certain hysteria creeps in to the coverage of ‘the latest gadgets’. You hear commentators breathe "Will it really do all that...?"
Here's the question: will there be anything new at this years CES...? Well, not really. Sure it will be shiny and you may just get away with saying we've never seen it before, but, well, see, they say that about the latest Ford Fiesta.
The problem is there are very few NEW technologies; in fact year on year development in technology is very slow compared to our expectations. The problem is, to make money, companies desperately need to interest us in what they are selling, which so often is the mark two version of the mark one we saw last year.
We can't avoid the shiny new stuff, thus a vaguely breathless piece in a national news paper, after trotting through the shows press releases concluded "anything could happen" at CES.
Yeah of course, anything. Just like anything could happen in a performance of, say, Macbeth.
See, shows like this run on rails, they are pure showbiz. The only thing to comment on is the 'performance' because the substance is invariably the same as last year.
We (obviously, I mean I) have already fallen out with a large PC manufacturer because I couldn't see what was new in its new box. And, foolishly, I said as much.
The clue was them offering brace of senior mouthpieces to talk about it. A CES rule of thumb is: the more important the spokesperson you are offered, the smaller the story.
Of course, one trick they try is to pretend that the senior person isn't available and heighten the excitement by not returning phone calls.
I've had girlfriends like that.
And then there is the joker that makes neurotics of us all. The surprise. The embarrassing conversation with your boss when you explain just how it was that the guys at home picked up a CES story, a proper one, and you didn't.
At CES we shouldn't be asking how new it is, but does it work yet?
- 6 Jan 07, 05:01 PM
A few of the comments left on the site have made reference to the blog being called Tomorrow's World - and perhaps I should explain the reason.
For those who are either too young to remember, or who live outside the UK, Tomorrow's World was a populist science and technology programme on the BBC which was axed a few years ago after almost 40 years of broadcasting.
BBC News has decided to bring back the "brand" for a whole range of technology coverage which you will see on TV and online over the coming 12 months.
The programme is not being brought back - but the feeling was that the moniker chimed with many people who remembered its accessible and interesting method of communicating developments in technology.
The Technology section of BBC News Interactive is not being re-branded and we're certainly not changing our agenda but there was a feeling, that for CES the brand of Tomorrow's World would work well.
For those of you who remember Tomorrow's World, do you think the programme should be brought back? Or has technology stepped out of an imposed ghetto and now deserves integration with the rest of news coverage?
Perhaps technology needs a special emphasis?
Let us know your thoughts.
UPDATE: Tomorrow's World has clearly sparked a real debate judging by the comments. Just to reiterate what I said in the original posting; there is NO plan to bring back the programme itself. There is a whole series of features on BBC News this year across bulletins, News 24, and online that will use Tomorrow's World as an umbrella.
But I will make sure that these comments are passed on to the big wigs at the BBC. Who knows what these comments might spark....
- 6 Jan 07, 04:11 PM
A fleet of taxi cabs is buzzing around Vegas with adverts on their rooftop placards from Microsoft for its new Vista operating system - the "wow starts now" is the claim.
CES has always been about the wow and perhaps the ads signify a wider sense of anticipation for the next and the new that will be unveiled in the coming days.
But there's a creeping tone of caution emerging from some well-respected bloggers about what exactly we will see next week.
Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg - one of the best connected tech writers in the business - has said CES will be evolutionary not revolutionary.
"Don't look for lots of new stuff to be introduced, look instead for products that are reaching maturation to show how they can differ from other products by allowing for better interaction, managment, integration, form factor or price," he writes.
He makes the valid point that too much of technology is alienating to the average person and touts the emergence of the "digital consumer".
He is absolutely right. Anyone who has grappled with the dark arts of a wi-fi network, for example, knows that "plug in and play" is still a hope more than than a reality. And in this digital age we are supposed to be hooking up our lives into home networks.
Some hope with the problems that face the average consumer. I read earlier on our BBC CES blog that Click editor Richard Taylor has not only got his e-mail up and running but is also planning to stream TV content from his home Sky box via a Slingbox over the net to his laptop - or perhaps even to his mobile phone.
I'm glad he found the wi-fi network here at the motel, where the BBC is ensconced, easy to use. I had some real teething problems being able to connect to the BBC network. The solution was simple in the end but still took an hour of messing around with proxy servers.
And no digital consumer in this day and age should even have to know what a proxy server is!
Another tech pundit sounding a note of caution is Robert Scoble who asks if CES is "going to be a snore?".
He points out that the announcement of a hard disk holding a terabyte of information is the hottest story on TechMeme , a website which acts as a barometer for tech interests.
His point is that if a hard drive is the talk of CES just a few days before the show, then perhaps we should not expect too much.
Perhaps we should all be a little more realistic.
One of the commenters on this blog certainly agrees.
"Another huge tech-fest of useless, glitzy gadgets coming up, brought to you by our dynamic corporations, to dazzle the starry-eyed sheep into letting go of their hard-earned bucks in the dumb hope that it will somehow make their lives better."
I don't share his pessimism but appreciate his comment. We've had a good start to the comments so far and hope people will continue to leave their thoughts as CES unfolds.
- 6 Jan 07, 02:49 PM
2100 LAS VEGAS
Just arrived and settled in. Funny, every time I come to the States, it reminds me that Americans simply "get" technology on a cultural level - far more than the Europeans, at any rate.
And I'm not just talking those in the industry, either. Ordinary people here just buy into the tech lifestyle. Sitting at dinner with the Click team at the motel, I was interrupted mid-flow by our waiter, who'd been eavesdropping our conversation about hi-def compression and the emerging rival optical disc formats. (yes folks, we’re "that" interesting).
Funny, he said, he didn't buy into the idea of Blu-ray or HD-DVD players being intertwined with games consoles (the PS3 and Xbox360, respectively). After all, he argued, without a digital HDMI port on his Xbox 360 (and consequently being forced to use a simple component output) how was he to enjoy the full benefits of HD-DVD content on his full-HD DLP projector (component outputs, will only handle 1080i, not full 1080p. You knew that, right?)
Happily (for him, at any rate) we pointed out that the latest Xbox 360s will have HDMI as standard, to support the HD-DVD add-on.)
Las Vegas may culturally be a millions miles from the sophisticated Bay Area coffee shops - but even out here, observations like this about technology are not unusual. I simply can't imagine the same thing happening in deepest rural England.
0600 LAS VEGAS
Suffering from the invariable jet lag that afflicts me as my annual bedfellow on CES trips, I've woken up thinking about the day ahead. CES hasn't even begun, but my team and I are gearing up nicely. I've already tested our motel's wifi connection (802.11g - running to a fairly hefty broadband connection) and am using it to good effect. In years gone by this might have been to download e-mails and check pre-show rumours, but now it's a far richer landscape available to me.
My “Slingbox” hardware in my living room at home in London is streaming (sorry, “slinging”) the contents of my Sky PVR directly to my notebook via the net, in remarkably watchable quality. In a few hours I’m looking forward to having breakfast perched over a stream of the Arsenal/Liverpool FA Cup 3rd round clash (I can even watch it on my 3g phone and it doesn't look half-bad). My only is concern is that I may also be battling my two-year-old daughter (who is in the living room) over control of the channels.
This is one I'm determined to win, though ultimately if she nudges the Slingbox’s “magic eye” a fraction off the IR sensor of the Skybox I'll have no way of talking back to my machine and she'd have stuffed me. I’m looking to this year's CES to see what solutions might be on offer to solve this particular conundrum.
- 5 Jan 07, 08:58 AM
The show may not start officially for a few days but it would seem that some companies can barely contain their enthusiasm.
Already LG has "announced" that it will unveil a DVD player which can read both HD-DVD and Blu-ray formats, and therefore discovering a path through the absurd two-format impasse the industry was trying to impose on customers.
And film studio Warners Bros will use CES to launch a hybrid DVD disc which can store both high definition formats.
You can read about LG's announcement and the Warner Bros disc on the BBC News website.
The news has been greeted enthusiastically by tech watchers.
Elsewhere Microsoft's reported deal with Ford to put online connectivity into their cars - including e-mail and music - hit the Wall Street Journal this week.
Microsoft executives were doing a round of pre-CES briefings on the deal but a promised chat with BBC News was pulled at the last minute following the appearance of the story in the WSJ.
An apologetic PR said Microsoft didn't want to give briefings ahead of CES in case information leaked out. The fact it had already hit the WSJ didn't seem to matter.
Clearly Microsoft are worried no-one will bother to report the news now it has been widely picked up in other publications.
- 4 Jan 07, 01:55 PM
The Consumer Electronics Show is a marathon run at the pace of a 100-metre sprint.
Each year more than 140,000 industry professionals - from engineers to analysts, and from buyers to sellers - gather in the desert in Nevada for a celebration of technology.
No-one doubts that the scale of the event is absurd - 2,700 exhibitors and tens of thousands of products spread over 3.2 million square feet and spilling over further to almost every hotel suite in the city.
But every major player in the consumer electronics world will be present and somewhere amidst the copycat products, the hair-brained ideas and the over-optimistic visionaries are products and trends which will dictate how we live our digital lives in the coming years.
Last year Google and Yahoo made waves at CES as they demonstrated the obvious - that gadgets without content, services or application are pretty useless. All too often at CES products are prematurely launched, offering little value to the ordinary consumer.
The themes of the digital home and the ubiquitous net made up of billions of connected devices from phones to PCs, fridges and TVs, as well as products taking advantage of high definition and wi-fi have been the talk of CES for many years and little will change this year.
In many ways CES is a mirror of the industry itself - a marathon full of competitors more suited to the sprint.
No-one really knows which products, which services and which models of consumption will emerge triumphant in the 21st Century - every one is gambling.
The conference launches officially on Monday but the event has gotten so big that pre-show events kick off on Saturday with a rota of press conferences, culminating in Microsoft boss Bill Gates delivering a keynote speech on Sunday.
In past years Gates has used his speech to unveil the Xbox, the Tablet PC and the eBook, three products with varying degrees of success. It goes to show that not even visionaries like Gates really know where the industry is heading.
Over the next week BBC News journalists will be trying to navigate this race but we want to hear about which products or ideas interest you most. What are the key issues for you? Is this orgy of consumerism a positive or negative influence in your life.
Feel free to comment.
Let the race begin.
- 4 Jan 07, 12:53 PM
What technology does an online journalist use to cover the world's largest technology conference?
Thankfully, unlike my colleagues in television and radio I don't have to worry about booking satellite feeds, or concern myself with international TV standards, upload speeds or how footage will be edited.
Life is simpler for the online journalist - but not without its challenges. The priority always is getting text - or copy as we call it - back to the journalists in London so it can be formatted for the web.
I can connect remotely to the software we use to write for the web but everything must be checked - subbed - before it goes live on the website.
The key pieces of equipment include:
A laptop (HP 6120) - all of our stories and blog entries will be written on this machine. The most important feature of the laptop is its ability to connect to the internet wirelessly. In order to send back stories and photos I'll need to access one of the many free wi-fi networks in operation in Las Vegas.
It might not be the sexiest laptop around - but it gets the job done... eventually.
A digital camera (Canon 350D) - I'm not a professional photographer but pictures are an essential part of any online news story. All of my pictures for CES will be included in our CES Flickr group which you are welcome to join.
An MP3 player/recorder (Creative Zen Nano plus and iRiver) - I've had my fingers burnt in the past using a hard disk-based audio recorder so I'm taking two devices. One is a flash based recorder while the other has a small hard disk drive.
The beauty of these devices is that any audio can be dragged and dropped onto my computer so if I want to e-mail the interviews to anyone I can.
A wi-fi enabled mobile phone (Nokia N80) - sometimes you don't want to have to open your laptop and log in to check e-mail or the latest news on the blogs.
A PDA/mobile phone (Palm Treo 750v) - I want to be able to see all of my appointments at a glance and I can sync the Palm Treo to my laptop to pick up e-mails, calendar etc. Sadly it doesn't have wi-fi - hence the need for two mobile phones.
Cables - Lots and lots of power cables, charger, plug adapters etc. It may be the wireless networked world but until power and charging go wire-free it remains very much a wired world at large.
PSP - The PlayStation Portable may have not become the Walkman of the 21st Century as envisaged by Sony but it remains a very useful device. I use mine mainly to play games - it will be invaluable on the 12 hour flight to Las Vegas - and to watch movies.
I rip movies that I own into a format that the PSP can understand and playback. Sadly in the eyes of the law that makes me a criminal.
iPod - I own a 3rd generation 40GB iPod which is probably the only piece of technology that travels everywhere with me.
The battery life is now non-existent and I doubt it will last even a third of the journey from London to Las Vegas but with my entire record collection - 5,600 songs - on it, it's the one must-have device.
- 4 Jan 07, 12:35 PM
November 1999 and the BBC is finally persuaded to send me on my first trip to Las Vegas. It's the height of the dot com boom and the Comdex computer industry show is bound to provide some good stories.
But we're on a tight budget - the team is me and a producer rather nervously carrying a cheap camcorder, and outside the motel where we're lodged in a seedy part of town there's a drive-by shooting on the first night.
The big story revolves - as ever - around Bill Gates and Microsoft. Will the software giant be broken up by the US Department of Justice? Will its dominance at last be threatened as Linux emerges as a credible operating system?
We also chose to shoot a piece on the challenge posed by Britain's Psion which some believed was the David that could down Microsoft's Goliath, with its Symbian operating system for mobile phones.
We couldn't afford a satellite feed so had to take our material back to London to be edited and broadcast a few days later - and perhaps fortunately the main news bulletins chose not to run our Psion report.
Flash forward to January 2007 and we're back in Las Vegas in rather greater strength.
This time it's the Consumer Electronics Show - but now the computer giants are determined to move their products from the back bedroom to the living-room, I think it'll feel much the same as Comdex.
For one thing, the whole event kicks off with a Bill Gates keynote on Sunday evening - we're expecting more details on Microsoft's campaign to convince us that its new products will be at the centre of family entertainment.
This time, with CES receiving blanket coverage online and on radio and television, we will have to bring the news as it happens rather than shipping it back. But new technology now means we can shoot and edit more economically, and then send our reports via broadband at a fraction of the cost of a satellite feed.
To complicate matters, the other big noise of the technology world is making his play for the connected household. But Apple's Steve Jobs won't be in Las Vegas - his MacWorld keynote address is six hundred miles away in San Francisco on Tuesday morning.
So after a lot of head-scratching we've decided to take a day trip away from CES in the expectation that Mr Jobs will stride onto the stage in his black polo neck and neatly pressed jeans - and pull something shiny and exciting out of his pocket.
So Steve - and Bill - please don't disappoint us. Jobs v Gates makes a good story - and we're counting on both of you to come out fighting.
- 4 Jan 07, 12:29 PM
This blog aims to bring the latest news and colour from the Consumer Electronics Show 2007, the world's largest technology conference.
BBC News journalists will be blogging about ground-breaking products, discussing emerging themes and encouraging your involvement.
Your guides to the event in Las Vegas include:
BBC News Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones
BBC News website Technology editor Darren Waters
Newsnight correspondent Paul Mason
BBC Click reporter Chris Long
BBC Radio 1's Technology reporter Iain Mackenzie
The blog is designed to be complementary to the BBC News website's Technology section - which will still be the main source for bigger news stories and more considered features and analysis. Where appropriate we will be linking to articles on the BBC News website and taking into account the wider debate about CES in the blogosphere.
There will also be news and features across BBC TV news bulletins, News 24, BBC World, Radio 1 and of course on Click.
The BBC wants to be open and accountable, and so this site is a public space where you can engage with us as much as the medium allows. We want your views on any of our blogging posts and to hear about the questions you have about new technologies.
If you are attending CES there is a Flickr group that has been set up for your photographs. We will also be posting our photos to the group.
Comments on this blog will be moderated. When you submit a comment, we will read it and decide whether to publish it. We aim to include as many comments as we can, but we won't publish any which are abusive, are inappropriate on the grounds of taste and decency, or which appear to be part of a concerted lobbying attempt. There's more on our moderation policy in these Have Your Say House Rules.
Comments should be based around the original post and subsequent discussion. If you want to make a general comment, then please e-mail us instead. We can't promise to respond to every e-mail, but we'll do our best to read them all.
You should also bear in mind that e-mailing us, or leaving a comment on the blog, is not the same as making a formal complaint. If you want to do that, this website will help you - and this way, you're guaranteed to receive a formal response.
For comparison purposes, here are links to some of the rules applied by our contemporaries - ABC News, NBC News, and CBS News in the USA, and Sky News and The Guardian in the UK.
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites