CES Products Electrify Vegas and Gadget Hounds
SanDisk (www.sandisk.com), for instance, rolled out its new 1- and 2-gigabyte SD (Secure Digital) and Memory Stick storage cards, a development that will revolutionize not only vidcams and digital cameras, but a whole range of consumer products, including PDAs, cell phones, printers and game sets, which will orient towards better picture and display qualities now that gigabyte storage is available in a SanDisk chip the size of a postage stamp. Flash memory grew 90% in sales volume last year. The SD, CF (Compact Flash) and Sonys Memory Stick remain popular flash card formats, while the MMC (MultiMediaCard) format seems to be falling behind, and the SmartMedia is essentially dead. Two new formats, miniSD and Memory Stick Duo, have been developed as reduced-size versions of these cards for the growing cell phone market, especially for cell phones with built-in cameras exceeding one-megapixel resolution (already available in Japan).
A real paradigm-shifter at the show was the DVR-250 HD satellite receiver from DIRECTV (www.directv.com), which can receive and record high-definition content, with four HD TV tuners (two for satellite and two for terrestrial), a 250-gigabyte hard drive and TiVo PVR features. What makes this set revolutionary is that it is the first real product (other than some very expensive digital tape recorders) that allows consumers to tape HD programs off the air and then replay them later to friends to show off their widescreen HD monitors and surround-sound speakers. Up till now high-def content could only be watched live, with no way to record it for later viewing. The ability to record HD by consumers will mean both a growing demand for more HD content (which will affect broadcasters and post-production houses) and increased sales of widescreens and surround-sound systems (to show off said content to envious neighbors).
DIRECTV (recently bought by Rupert Murdoch) is offering the DVR-250 for $999; the 250GB drive records about 30 hours of HD or 150 hours of standard programming. The growing acceptance of PVRs such as this will have another major effect because they give viewers the ability to easily skip over advertising in television programming, the networks will have to look for new ways to insert ads. Look for more banner ads superimposed on the screen, as well as increased use of product placement within the show itself both live and (because live footage with a product in it could wind up on the cutting room floor) as 3D computer animation added after a show is in the can.
Audio played a large part at the CES, with a myriad of new music players, including MP3 players included in PDAs, phones and almost anything that moves. One cool product shown is the LINK from Skullcandy (www.skullcandy.com), which is a low-cost connection between the two life-support systems for many young consumers the cell phone and the MP3 player. You need never miss an important call when head-banging again the LINK allows the cell phone to ring through on your stereo headphones, so you can answer the call and then return to the music. Since Skullcandy is located in Park City, it caters to snowboarders, who prefer not to have headphones covering their ears, lest they miss the screams of possible collision targets. Fear not Skullcandy has a new backpack with great speakers built into the shoulder straps, so you can get high-quality stereo on the slopes.
Another cool product is the IQue from Garmin (www.garmin.com), which combines a GPS navigation system (with voice) and an MP3 player into a PDA with a Palm OS, a definite must for the traveler. If you want to videotape while traveling, you might consider a Model 100 from Deja View (www.mydejaview.com), which consists of a tiny camera that can be attached onto your sunglasses and a cell phone-sized remote unit that clips onto your belt and records video clips, all for under $400.