Im Not at CES: Back Home Again

Opinion: Here are five announcements that caught my attention and have some chops for the business world.

So the story goes that the first two calls Steve Jobs gets on the iPhone are first from John Chambers telling Jobs he is suing him over violating the Cisco iPhone trademark and second from the California Attorney General asking Jobs just what he knows about the Apple stock option backdating scandal.

OK, the calls never took place because the iPhone (despite all the breathless enthusiasm) only exists as a prototype. Bill Gates must wonder why when Microsoft introduces vaporware it is hammered for being just that: vaporware. When Jobs does the same thing it is championed as the greatest product of all time. Hint to Bill: It is all in the presentation.

Anyway, the third call would probably be from the management of the Consumer Electronics Show complaining that Jobs had no right to steal their spotlight. I mean the CES show is supposed to be where the big consumer electronics products are introduced, but the Steve Jobs Apple show in San Francisco proved that one big product introduced by a great presenter outweighs a couple of thousand me-toos introduced by hundreds of execs who cant ask for directions to the bathroom without a PowerPoint presentation to back them up.

Im back here in Boston to write my wrap-up of CES. (OK, I never left in the first place—see my previous coverage of "Im not at CES" here and here.) Ive had one or two e-mails contending Ive been overly hard on the show. We had a couple of reporters at CES and , and I think we did a good job at finding the business angle. But big, sprawling shows have a way of tripping over their heft, and this year I think CES suffered from embarrassing weight gain.


Now, back to the iPhone. Ive been a fan of multifunction phones. Phone is not really the right term, but neither is PDA or handheld computer. I ran a panel at the CTIA show in Los Angeles this fall where (taking the business perspective here) I came away feeling that CIOs who really want to make their mark in their company this year had better figure out a way to bring these multifunction devices (right, still not the right term) into their company.

However, before you hand off that device with voice, data, video, audio and high-speed connectivity to your mobile users, you better be sure that the $500 you spend gets you something that is rugged, reliable and secure. My colleague at Microsoft Watch, Joe Wilcox, raises some good questions about whether the iPhone has the chops to make it in the real world of coffee spills, falls from tabletops and generally living in the world of outrageous fortunes where electronic devices must reside. No one should extol the virtues of the iPhone until the unit has been given a rugged three-month real-world tryout. Our eWEEK Labs analyst Andrew Garcia does a good blog about the iPhone here.

Now, back to Vegas. Or at least back to my coverage of Vegas from the home of the soon-to-be-once-again world champion Patriots. Here are five announcements that caught my attention and have some chops for the business world.

1. A tree for every PC. Michael Dell had the unfortunate luck to be on stage in Las Vegas at about the same time Steve Jobs was on in San Francisco. Jobs likes to pretend he is still a hip twenty-year-old wearing a black turtleneck while I think Dells wardrobe consists of 500 dark blue suits cut in the IBM style. No match in presentation aplomb, but Id give Dell some kudos for taking environmentalism head-on and promising to plant a tree for every PC sold. Ive driven around Texas a fair amount and I can confidently say that except for an occasional tree by some tired and lonely river, there are no trees in Texas. There are certainly no trees along that strip mall highway leading from Austin to Dells headquarters in Round Rock. Start planting Mike, youve got a lot of work ahead of you.

2. Ill give Dell another plug for its DataSafe online data backup service. I only bring it up because it is interesting to watch all the hardware vendors try to figure out how to shift to online services while still trying to sell a lot of hardware.

3. The 32GB solid state disk. I like this one because it points the way to solid state laptops and laptops running hybrid solid state and rotating memory. The solid state disks promise power savings, but there are also a lot of potential security advantages in putting operating systems and applications locked down on solid state safe areas. Much easier to do than trying to create safe areas on rotating disk drives.

4. Powercast. Yes, from that hotbed of high tech, Pennsylvania, comes a technology that uses radio frequency captured from a small area to wirelessly power electronic devices. In theory this could either recharge batteries or eliminate batteries altogether. You can read more about it here, but the idea is not that strange or particularly new. A lot of folks think that Nicola Tesla had this all figured out in the early 1900s.

5. All the Bluetooth stuff. Bluetooth has followed a classic adoption curve of everyone claiming it would be everywhere to everyone claiming it was going nowhere to finally coming out with some neat products. There is a good roundup of products here, but the sound of cord-cutting as computer peripherals are freed from being tied to the CPU is being heard everywhere. Even though Harald 1 (the original Bluetooth) was not particularly liked by my ancestors, Im still willing to say Bluetooth is finally arriving as a technology you should care about.

eWEEK magazine Editorial Director Eric Lundquist can be reached at


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