MediaFile

Stop the CES madness

NEW YORK – That dateline is right: I’m not at the Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. I’m in good company: Apple, Amazon, Google – global superpowers in tablets, the dominant tech of our time – aren’t there this year, and have never been any other. Microsoft gave the primary keynote last year, but that was its swan song at this relic in the desert. Somebody else will have to take its space on the convention floor this year.

Truth is, I’ve never made the Hajj to CES. Nevertheless, an estimated 150,000 people are attending (if there’s a God in Heaven CNET’s editorial team of 90 is the most representatives from any single publication). They’re gathering to be dazzled by 33,000 exhibitors there to make sure you understand they are about to revolutionize [their industry here]. Everything from self-driving cars to fast USB sticks will be touted.

The journalists who are there are hoping to press some flesh and discover something in the vast ocean of minutia that that they alone will recognize as truly amazing. But that’s foolish. We no longer need to go anywhere to keep up with technology. Technology ensures everything keeps up with us. When nearly every tech blog on the Internet is flypaper to tech companies, why commute to the hype?

CES has been a fixture on the tech calendar for years, since the very first one in 1967 in New York. New York in January is sort of cold, but it wasn’t until 1998 that the trade show moved exclusively to Vegas, where it might be 108 degrees on the strip but you’ll never know that because you’ll never see the light of day as you roam 1.68 million square feet of air-conditioned exhibition space.

The show has been the venue for trial balloons and countless hopes and dreams. The VCR and DVD were unveiled at CES. So was the Palm Pre. But it has never achieved the status of a single SteveNote – those hot-ticket presentations by Apple’s Steve Jobs, who often spoke about one product and never more than you could count on one hand.

Sony’s Sir Howard Stringer makes fun of News Corp hacking scandal

On the same day that James Murdoch was fighting for his career at a parliamentary hearing on Thursday in London, Sony’s CEO Sir Howard Stringer was making fun of the whole situation an ocean away.

At a fancy breakfast hosted by News Corp’s Wall Street Journal in New York (where Sirius XM’s CEO Mel Karmazin was in the house), Stringer was the guest of honor.  WSJ editor Robert Thomson kicked off the Q&A session introducing Stringer, who later took the opportunity to show off one of Sony’s new products, a pair of binoculars that can be used to record video or pictures in 3D. That’s when Stringer seized the moment to turn the breakfast into an impromptu roast about News Corp’s woes.  Wielding the binoculars, he said:

“These are 3D binoculars. I venture it got good reviews. The Wall Street Journal will equip all their reporters with this. And if you think hacking the Royal Family is fun with phones, this is the ideal device. If you stay at the Hotel InterContinental Hyde Park, you can actually gaze into Buckingham Palace with these. I am telling this to (Thomson), wherever you are. Did you leave already? This is for you. This is for you. Video recording or stills.”

Maybe $400 heaters and $85,000 TVs will get consumers spending again

                                                                                          It was a confusing week to be a consumer electronics reporter. At the start, I was convinced that no one wants to spend on anything besides an iPad and by the end, I learned that there are people out there buying $85,000 TVs.

On Tuesday, Best Buy’s shares tanked on disappointing earnings. Our headline shouted “tech shoppers turn thrifty,”  and explained how nobody will buy a new flat-screen TV once they have bought their first one.

But if U.S. consumers won’t shell out for new flat screens, maybe they will buy high-end fans and heaters. That’s what James Dyson told me on Wednesday at the launch of the inventor’s latest gadget– a heater that costs $400, the Dyson Hot.

CES: Achieve new positions

If you’re going to Las Vegas, you might as well go to bed in public. And what better way to do that than on a mattress whose ability to achieve new positions is unrivaled? Leonard Cohen would be jealous.

Yes, it’s true.  There will be a mattress on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center starting January 6 for the 2011 CES show.

Actually, it will be in the Vivon Life booth (South Hall, lower level #22057).  It may be the first sleep mattress ever to be shown at the Consumer Electronics Show and we think it will get people to turn their heads and take notice.

Why won’t Amazon say how many Kindles it’s sold?

Something about returning from the Christmas holidays makes people want to show off what they received – a new sweater donned, a new gadget subtly pulled out at meetings, a few extra pounds padding the belly.

Jeff Bezos doesn’t like this tradition. He will hint at the generous present that consumers gave to Amazon in the form of surprisingly strong sales, but he won’t offer details.

Bezos wants you to know that his Kindle – the e-book reader that has done a remarkably good job surviving in the age of the iPad – was Amazon’s “bestselling product of all time.” How many Kindles did Amazon sell? We don’t know because Amazon isn’t saying.

The world wants cheap but stylish phones. Can Android deliver both?

KOREA/Cheap and stylish are more likely to be antonyms when describing mobile phones. But the global market will reward a smartphone that can deliver on both fronts, a goal that Android phones seem best suited to reaching.

That is one conclusion to be drawn from a survey from Nielsen on mobile phone usage by 15-24 year olds around the world. The survey had some interesting insights, such as Italy’s position as the market with the highest percentage of young people owning a smartphone (47%). The U.S. was the only major market surveyed where smartphone owners were more likely to be female (55%) than male (45%).

Only one in six smartphones owned by people in the age group surveyed were purchased by parents, so the results can help shed light on what features appeal the most to consumers under 25. For the most part, those features varied by country.

Tablets could offer Research-in-Motion a second act

Could tablets offer Research-in-Motion a second act? The company, whose Blackberry phones were the hottest mobile devices of the decade until the iPhone and Android phones showed up, badly needs something to revive its growth.

Just last week, ComScore said that the Blackberry’s share of the U.S. smartphone market fell to 35.8% from 39.3% while the iPhone inched up a percentage point to 24.6% and Android grew by six and a half percentage points to 23.5%. Another survey by Nielsen showed that people planning to upgrade from feature phones to smartphones prefer Android and iPhones. Only 11% of those surveyed are most interested in buying a Blackberry.

Analysts are starting to worry that the trend will be repeated in overseas markets. On Wednesday, Shaw Wu of Kaufman Bros. said he expects RIM’s stock price to erode because Android’s market share is growing as prices of Android phones come down. RIM’s stock is down 3% since Monday as investors mulled such concerns.

Forget-me-not: RIM’s half-ready PlayBook vies for attention

www.reuters.comBy Alastair Sharp

Research In Motion’s upcoming PlayBook tablet device made a live guest appearance on home turf today at a Toronto press conference on how these  devices that fall between smartphones and laptops will change life as we know it.

When it comes to real-world uses for tablets, most examples understandably came from Apple’s iPad, the old man on the block at eight months old.

The iPad helps autistic children communicate and helps hospitals manage patients. Corporate software maker SAP has even built an iPad app for business intelligence. The list goes on.

When gamers hit Toys R Us and other tales of Black Friday

Sprinkled among the snaking lines of parents at a Toys R Us in New Jersey on Black Friday were diehard gamers. Many had no children to spoil. Nor were they particularly happy to be in the Toys R Us; but with gaming hardware fast selling out across the region, they followed the scent of the deal.

The Kinect moved especially fast, if early anecdotal evidence is any measure. Brisk sales of  hardware like the PlayStation3, Xbox and Microsoft Kinect on the nation’s biggest annual shopping spree also bode well for software sales, says Mike Hickey, a Janco Partners analyst.

But which games were enticing fans to shell out on Black Friday?

“ We’re seeing strong sales of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (Ubisoft), Just Dance 2 (Ubisoft), Call of Duty: Black Ops (Activision Blizzard), Red Dead Redemption (Take-Two Interactive), Fallout: New Vegas (Bethesda), Gran Turismo 5 (Polyphony Digital) and Donkey Kong (Nintendo),” Hickey said.

Rupert Murdoch’s long crusade to make digital news pay

Rupert MurdochOn the first day of one of my journalism classes, the teacher produced a large metal ring with a short rope fastened to it. The ring was made to be installed in a bull’s nose, he explained; and the rope – called a lead – let you guide him wherever you wanted. The point was clear, if somewhat condescending: Writing a good lead lets the journalist guide the reader around like cattle.

That illustration was a lot more powerful before the web, during an era when closed media like print newspapers and television limited interactivity and left consumers with no choice but to passively accept the news as presented. It doesn’t make sense on the web, where any reader can challenge news content or even become a publisher in a matter of minutes.

Rupert Murdoch still lives in a world of nose rings. The News Corp. CEO has had remarkable success in print and television, but he has stumbled again and again on the web, most notably with the great fizzle that was MySpace. Even today, the company is backing away from Project Alesia, its ambitious plan to create a digital newsstand, after other publishers showed little interest.