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Rory Cellan-Jones

Gadget Week - what shall we cover?

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 2 Jan 09, 09:01 GMT

I'm off to San Francisco and Las Vegas this weekend to attend Macworld and the Consumer Electronic Show for a series of reports on TV, on radio and on this blog. We're calling it Gadget Week.

When you sign up to cover events like these, and hand over your e-mail address, you are bombarded for weeks with press releases urging you to cover the products of thousands of companies. Each of them issues what seems like a compelling invitation to come to their stand and see something truly innovative.

So one says I should "Come and Meet the New HeatShift by ThermaPAK Technologies. New must-have laptop accessory". Another insists I should "Please try to make an appointment or drop by to see our award-winning eco-friendly packaging products." Should I rush to film "the world's first multi-user, multi-touch interactive learning center designed specifically for early education?" Or maybe "a fully interactive online music and dance website that links directly to people's iPods" is worth a look? What about "the first ever internet-connected gardening device?"

It becomes impossible to see the wood for the trees and after a while, I'm afraid, just about all of these e-mails get deleted unread. We could just get to the shows, see what takes our fancy, and busk it. But television, at least, does need a little advance planning - so here is what we are thinking of featuring right now.

Macworld

The only other time I've attended this event was when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone - which provided us with one big story. This time, of course, Mr Jobs is not attending - and that means we are not betting on any major product launches. But there are some fascinating questions to be answered. Will there be a cheap "netbook"? Probably not - why would Apple want to get into a product category where profit margins are so slim? Will there be a new device - or perhaps an updated Apple TV - to give the firm a bigger role in online video? Will iTunes begin to offer a subscription service? Could we see an iPhone nano? Inevitably, though, a lot of the coverage is likely to focus not on products, but on the future direction of the company. Will Apple just bunker down for the hard economic times ahead - or will it use its huge cash pile to snap up some smaller businesses? And of course the really big question - what happens to Apple if and when its charismatic leader decides it is time to hand over the reins to someone else?

CES

Right now, we're planning two big themes for our television reports from Las Vegas - the future of television, and recession tech, by which we mean smaller, leaner less power-hungry gadgets for these difficult times.

So we hope to look at how far OLED has got on delivering on the promise of the thinnest screens with the sharpest pictures, at somewhat more realistic prices than we've seen to date. We will be filming 3-D televisions(in 2-D, sadly), tiny projectors that can throw a video from your MP3 player onto the bedroom wall, and those glasses that project a movie onto the lenses.

If 2008 saw the rise of the netbook, we expect to see dozens more small, savvy devices on show at CES. In halls packed with enough kit to drain several local power plants, there will be plenty of companies claiming that their products are planet-friendly - or can even cut your energy bills.

We will also be keeping an eye on the development of touchscreen in all sorts of devices, trying to work out whether we're any closer to building a "digital home" that can be worked without a computer science degree, and looking at just how much progress Blu-Ray has made since it won the high-definition format battle last year.

So those are our early plans - but we expect to have them derailed by the unexpected. And if you've some thoughts on what we should be chasing down in San Francisco and Las Vegas, do let us know.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I'd like to see if cheap touchscreen netbooks are appearing. The obvious evolution of the netbook is to move towards the UMPC/Origami device I've seen a mod done on youtube where a 7" usb overlay was fitted inside an EEE, giving the possibility of a less than halfprice tablet, surely there is a market for the netpad that is bigger than a pda?


    This would of course tie in with looking forward to windows 7 (or a similar linux?)

  • Comment number 2.

    Anything embedded in clothes, bags or anything else relating to technologies whilst you're on the move would be interesting.

  • Comment number 3.

    Like many others, my house is full of PCs (Windows and Linux), TV's, DVD players/recorders but there still isn't a simple way of sending media from any device to any other. Now if we could buy simple WiFi devices to plug in to each source and target we might get somewhere.....?

  • Comment number 4.

    I'd be interested to know:

    what's happening to R&D budgets at the moment - where is the money being focused and are budgets being cut or increased?

    what's happening in the area of digital health? Intel have a whole division devoted to this, I'm told, and it would be interesting to see what products and services are being developed.

    where is the netbook market going this year and what new products will we see?

    whether any "must-have" devices are emerging after a lacklustre, incremental year.

  • Comment number 5.

    I already know how far blu-ray has come, if someone has seen the Wall-E blu-ray on a 40"+ HDTV then they instantly think "Wow! DVD needs to go away sooner than later!!!"

    As for OLED, I can't wait for it to be in the 40" bracket and low prices... but by then, Laser TV's will already be knocking on the door.

    Also @ post 3, Mylorharbour...

    It already exists but Microsoft are still the ones refusing to accept that people want cross functionality between different systems. I can transfer between Apple and Linux and PS3 etc with no problems... but bring Windows into the equation and suddenly everything begins to fail.

  • Comment number 6.

    User-friendly gadgets only, please! That means we don't have to learn much more than where the 'on' button is located. Icons, connections to other 'stuff' should not need explaining. Backups should 'just happen'. Internet connections should have sufficient bandwidth for user-normal BBC homepage speed or similar. Nothing but nothing should require US date formats (even US immigration papers do not do that). And anything that requires a fuzzy bear/rabbit or a goth needs to go straight in the bin: we use the stuff and we are not bears/rabbits/goths... are we?

  • Comment number 7.

    I've been fascinated lately by the number of 'pointless' gadgets featured on the itunes store. When Steve Jobs unveiled this iphone phenomenon, I wonder if he foresaw it being used to run apps such as ifart and iSteam?! It's not only you reporters who are being bombarded with ferocious marketing campaigns to get their products noticed though: Developers seem to be finding new and amusing ways to promote themselves. The creator of iSteam has even posted on a forum that he'll buy his girlfriend a Tiffany ring if his application makes it into the bigtime! Maybe he'll use the app to propose as well. Whatever next eh?!

  • Comment number 8.

    Rory:
    I hope that you will enjoy yourself at the conventions in the United States...

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 9.

    The last Macworld should be interesting. I expect an iPod Touch form factor iPhone to be revealed and the rumours of a PAYG iPhone Nano continue to persist...

    Outside that, I'm not really interested - we know what Nokia are bringing out this year - which is exciting - and Microsoft's Windows 7 looks to be the business too.

  • Comment number 10.

    Will there be a viable alternative to the iphone?

  • Comment number 11.

    Please cover anything other than mobile phones, I cannot bear any more tedious discussions about how this phone allows you to travel in time but another has a sonic screwdriver built in. How many people really care when the vast majority only use them to make calls and send texts.

  • Comment number 12.

    I would like to see integration of TV and computers. As I find myself watching more and more content on my computer, it would be nice just to switch on one screen and watch TV or surf.
    I know last year there were some examples but my dream machine would be a 40+inch iMac with blu-ray.

  • Comment number 13.

    I agree! If you want a phone that just rings rather than making the tea, it's impossible to find one!! The iphone is a prime example of gadgetry gone a bit mad...I read an article the other day heralding the 'top apps' of the year: One with a pint of beer that sloshes around on the screen, another that farts at you and another still where the screen mists up so you can write messages to friends. All great and everything but can't I do all of that in real life if I want to?! But it seems sticking the letter'i'in front of a verb like 'steam' or 'fart' guarantees you iphone fame!!

    So here's something novel to look at for at your gadget show: A phone that JUST makes and receives calls! Imagine that!

  • Comment number 14.

    Mylorharbour have you looked at mediaportal? You may be pleasantly surprised. It has many many features and plugins for sorting your media and if you are still using terrestrial tv, it has a very robust tv server engine in which you can record tv on one box and stream it to other clients around the house. Best of all its free.

  • Comment number 15.

    A couple of people have remarked on the fact that they just want a simple mobile phone that makes calls and sends texts rather than a smart phone. These types of phones are still widely available, however there is a growing market for smart phones as we try and reduce the amount of other gadgets we carry, such as camera's, video camera's, mp3 players, sat-navs, laptops AND a phone. Why not have it all in one handy device?
    Technology moves at a very fast pace and there will always be some who can't or refuse to keep up, but please don't call for the brakes to be put on these latest innovations that radically improve global communications and bring us all closer together each day. Surely that isn't a bad thing?

  • Comment number 16.

    @Robpal

    Is putting lots of different gadgets into one box innovation?

    Surely a show like this there has got to be something slightly more interesting to offer.

  • Comment number 17.

    @Mark_MWFC

    This isn't the last MacWorld, just the last one that Apple will be attending.

    I'm hoping for some true innovation or just something that no one has guessed at or that has been rumoured......

  • Comment number 18.

    @Rory Cellan-Jones, it looks as if it's not only you who's being bombarded with emails about new apps! David Pogue also comments on it here : http://www.tuaw.com/2009/01/08/macworld-2009-interview-with-david-pogue/

    Hope you find some good ones at Macworld!

 

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