CES: Little appetite for delay of DTV deadline

A panel at the Consumer Electronics Show, discussing the Feb 17 deadline for a mandatory U.S. switch to a nationwide digital television system, were less than keen on President-Elect Barack Obama’s backing of a proposal for a delay. The idea of postponing was floated amid fears viewers were unprepared and funding problems for a government program to provide $40 coupons for consumers to buy digital-to-analog converters.

“Delaying the transition in my opinion, you’re just delaying the same problems,” said Emily Neilson, president and general manager of KLAS-TV a Las Vegas CBS affiliate who said that about 7 percent of consumers were still not ready for the change over. She said that while the transfer was not likely to go perfectly, the problems would eventually be ironed out. “I think most of the people waiting on the coupons don’t need the $40 and I’d like to give those to the people who truly need it,” she said.

Henry Hauser, a display product manager for television maker Panasonic said it did not make sense to delay and that the transition would only see isolated snafus. “We feel it would be better to just end the confusion. People are going to delay until they don’t have a picture and then they’ll go get it,” he said. “We feel very strongly it should go forward”

But Lynn Mento, senior vice president at AARP, said that the advocacy group for people over 50, effectively supports the delay as it could help them to get more convertor coupons to the people who need them.

“We have been working to try to communicate to our members that if they have coupons to please donate them … The added time would give us more time to get those messages out.”

CES: Ford turns hip with Eva

Ford CEO Alan Mulally unveiled new features of its voice-command activated in-car system Sync yesterday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, highlighting its connectivity with a driver’s other devices, including cell phones and personal computers.

Mulally then showed off a futuristic dashboard featuring an electronic personal assistant, Eva (for Emotive Voice Activation). In a small video clip of how it could all work, the Eva avatar engaged the driver in conversation and performed tasks like scheduling appointments. It’s the next generation of Ford’s Human Machine Interface (HMI) strategy, Mulally said.

“Everyone is growing up with a connected device and they don’t want to be disconnected,” Mulally told Reuters in a brief interview after his CES keynote address. Ford’s hoping its Sync service, developed with Microsoft and launched 18 months ago, will appeal especially to younger car buyers. Earlier, he’d said his five kids are his “focus group,” often e-mailing him articles about new gadgets and trends from and other sites.

CES: TiVo’s Tom Rogers stands up for show

TiVo, the small company with the big brand name and tiny marketing budget, has long used CES as a primary showcase for its new products and initiatives.

This year we caught up with CEO Tom Rogers, where he talked about the pace of business discussions at CES, and how the video industry needs to learn from the mistakes of the music industry regarding “responding to strategic challenges.”

CES: Dell unveils Adamo… sort of

Dell Inc on Friday finally took the wraps off its entry into the fast-growing ultra-portable segment, unveiling its new Adamo PC to an assembled crowd of media types.

Well, perhaps unveiled is not exactly the right word. More like a brief, fleeting, passing glance. There was no touching the Adamo, no turning it on, really not much of anything. Instead, a model held the Adamo aloft and moved the PC around in a variety of poses, while reporters craned their necks and did a quick visual calculation, trying to figure out how big its screen size is.

There are really only two things we can say for sure about the Adamo: it is thin and it is the color black. Dell officials refused to divulge even the barest specs, saying only that it is a ” luxury franchise” that will ship in the first half of the year.

CES: Video – Palm’s Pre in action

Palm surprised many and racked up cool points with the introduction of its new mobile phone, the Pre, here at CES. How much Pre will cost at retail, whether Palm can deliver it on time, will Apple eat Palm’s lunch with the next iPhone — all those hugely important questions remain unanswered for now.

So with that in mind, we strolled into Palm’s swanky mood-lit lounge at CES, and recorded bits of the demonstrations of the Pre.

Here’s how the phone takes pictures, with its 3 megapixel camera:

Check out the curved view of the Pre, and the peek-a-boo mirror that pops up: Yes, a viewer at my demo said “The Ladies love that.” O-K…..

CES: Vivienne Tam netbook off to strong start

The PC emerged as fashion statement in 2008, with a number of companies rolling out models that attempted to appeal to consumers’ sense of style. And few PC offerings generated more buzz than Hewlett-Packard’s Mini 1000 Vivienne Tam edition, designed by the fashionista herself. The slim red netbook, which is meant to evoke a clutch purse, is decorated with peony flowers.

The device, which began shipping this week, is off to a strong start, according to Phil McKinney, chief technology officer of HP’s personal systems group. In an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, McKinney called the Vivienne Tam netbook the “first gender specific PC.”

“It’s still hard to get… I’ve gotten more emails on this product from people outside of HP wanting me to pull strings to get them the product than any other product we’ve ever shipped in the years I’ve been at HP.”

CES: Chambers talks portable

Cisco Chief Executive John Chambers is in Las Vegas again for the Consumer Electronics Show, where he unveiled products including a wireless audio hub for the home and promised new consumer product announcements as often as every two months from now on.

Chambers said he didn’t plan to bet in Sin City, except perhaps a little BlackJack, though you could call Cisco’s entry into the consumer electronics market a bit of a gamble.

The technology industry veteran took a moment to answer some questions from Reuters at a Cisco drinks reception at the show. We asked him if Cisco will come out with portable devices small enough to put in your pocket?

CES: Tom Hanks brings Hollywood glitter to tech show

Tom Hanks and Sony CEO Howard Stringer might just have gained a little street cred with the tech crowd this week.

Onstage at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the pair of old buddies bantered, aimed gentle jibes at each other and got an appreciative audience rolling in their seats.

Hanks — displaying the same comedic flair he showed in “Big” — insisted he was here because it was written into his contract for starring in the upcoming, Sony-distributed “Angels and Demons”.

CES: TVs, TVs and… TV zombies

I stepped out of the Las Vegas Convention Center yesterday to recover from the brilliant glare of the gazillion TVs on display inside — only to run into another set of boxes on the sidewalk. Okay, they weren’t regular old TVs, but humans wearing black boxes over their heads.

Their heads emblazoned with the logos of TV companies, these “TV zombies” were out on the street taking a break from their first CES protest. Jeffrey Jacoby, one of the zombies, explained that they were members of the Electronics Takeback Coalition, which was demonstrating against the poor gadget recycling practices of consumer electronics manufacturers like LG, Toshiba, Sony and others.

“We’re calling on manufacturers of TVs at CES to take back old products and keep toxic e-waste from coming to haunt us,” said Jacoby, who was dressed in rags and had on white face paint. The Dallas resident works for an environmental non-profit group and came to Vegas along with nearly 40 other people, just to protest.

CES: Palm in spotlight on Day 1

Palm Pre

The official start of the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas saw PDA pioneer Palm unveiling its answer to the popular iPhone smartphone and a new, Web-oriented operating system. Investors pushed the stock up 30 percent for two consecutive days and bloggers affirmed their optimism in early hands-on reviews.

Gizmodo’s Adrian Covert admired the Palm Pre’s intuitive design and “beautiful” screen. And Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky found switching between applications graceful and simple.

Elsewhere in Vegas, Sony continued blazing the organic light-emitting diode trail showing off a bendable OLED video screen that would make it possible to literally wear what you want to display. Actor Tom Hanks demonstrated a pair of prototype Sony eyeglasses with built-in video screens for watching full-length movies.