Looking Ahead to CES

The industry's big names have dropped a few hints about the products they'll be showing at CES.

Hewlett-Packard is being coy about its plans for CES, the annual Consumer Electronics Show, opening in Las Vegas on January 7. Jeff Hopper, marketing director for HPs digital imaging organization, will tell you that CEO Carly Fiorina will use her CES keynote speech to discuss "big breakthroughs in HPs digital imaging vision," but he wont give any specifics, saying only—when pressed—that these breakthroughs involve the use of digital cameras and "related systems." "There are going to be a number of different new technologies, new capabilities that are going to be introduced by Carly, and then well be showing them off on the show floor," he says. "The breadth and the direction of our vision is going to catch some people a little off guard."

Much more so than at this years Comdex trade show, which finished up in Vegas on November 16, the big names in the computing industry are using CES to announce new and different products. And when new and different products are about to be introduced, companies are usually tight-lipped about the details, wanting the official announcement to be as effective as possible. Like HP, many other major industry players are merely hinting at the new products theyll be unveiling at the show, forcing consumer electronics zealots to wait for CESs opening day.

In addition to introducing a new display built on liquid-crystal-on-silicon technology, which promises much higher resolutions than traditional television screens at a relatively low cost, and a low-cost projector for the home, ViewSonic is providing a sneak peak at a so-called "wireless monitor." All the company is saying, however, is that a prototype of the device will play a role in Bill Gatess keynote speech on January 7. "Its a device that will allow users to experience always-on mobile connectivity to a PC from anywhere in a home," hints ViewSonic spokesperson Jessica Sterns.

Altec Lansing, one of the leading speaker manufacturers, is slated to unveil three new sets of speakers—not for PCs but for gaming consoles, including the Microsoft Xbox, the Nintendo GameCube, and the Sony PlayStation 2. "When using their video game consoles, most people just hook up to their TVs," says Matthew Meyer, an Altec Lansing spokesperson, "and theres all kinds of audio on video game soundtracks that just doesnt come through really well on TV speakers." Meyer wont say too much about the specifics of each set of new speakers, but each will sell for $200 or less and each will offer a different number of individual components. One will likely be a five-piece set, one a two-piece set, and one will consist of a single mini-subwoofer that will provide "low-end rumble effects."

At a teleconference on the Tuesday of CES, Hitachi will introduce new additions to its lines of plasma televisions and digital camcoders. Currently, the companys plasma televisions are not really televisions. "Theyre just monitors, meaning they dont have fully integrated TV tuners," says Hitachi spokesperson Renee Linholm. "This year, were introducing full television set plasmas." One will likely measure 32-inches across the diagonal, one 42. The second-generation camcoders will merely bring the company into line with the rest of the market. "With the first generation, our video-editing software worked only with Windows 95," says Linholm. "Now its compatible with Mac and Windows 2000 and Windows XP, and the devices are just more user friendly."

Motient, the company which operates one of the countrys largest wireless data networks, will be showing off its new Mobile Modem, designed for Palm V handhelds. "Its the first product to truly liberate the nearly 6 million Palm V devices that are out there, really turning them into Blackberry-type devices," says Peter Belman, vice president of marketing and brand management at Motient. "With the Mobile Modem, the Palm V becomes an always-on, real-time e-mail machine."

Sharp will introduce a consumer version of the Zaurus, its Linux- and Java-based handhelds. Fujitsu will show off the iPad, a new Windows CE handheld that supports Voice over IP. And Maxtor will unveil an external IEEE 1394 hard drive as well as a video-editing kit that includes an add-in IEEE 1394 card for your PC. Wanna know more? Fly in to Vegas in January, or stay tuned to the PCMag.com Web site.