I covered my first CES in 1979, when I was working as a junior editor for a large consumer magazine. Back then, my beat was toys for my generation, young male boomers - car stereos, home audio, gadgets, and the fierce format war between VHS and Betamax.
Today, 29 years later, CES is about twice as big, and the product categories I cover now were mostly science fiction back then: high-definition television, mobile communications devices, personal computers, GPS technology. But when you strip it down, I'm still covering toys for my generation. And there's yet another format war involving Sony. Imagine that.
My road map for CES 2008 covers five products and technologies:
Windows Vista Last year at this time, Windows Vista had been released to businesses and a relative handful of insiders. Retail customers were still nearly a month away from getting their hands on the final product. Now, a year later, Vista has had a year of mostly negative buzz, with Service Pack 1 due to be released shortly. I'll be talking to Microsoft to learn how they plan to position Vista this year. More importantly, I'll be asking Microsoft's hardware and software partners about the feedback they're getting from customers.
HD DVD versus Blu-ray Sony was the big loser in the previous format war. This time, do they get to be the last format standing? Warner dropped the bomb last week with its announcement that it was dropping support for HD DVD and going all Blu-ray starting later this year. But will Blu-ray really win? I'll be looking at online alternatives to HD content delivery to see how soon any of them have the potential to make physical media obsolete.
PC display technology I'm meeting with Nvidia and AMD/ATI this week to look at what's in the pipeline from both companies. 2007 wasn't a particularly good year for either company, as they struggled to deliver products and working drivers for the new Vista display model. Those challenges are mostly solved, and now I'm looking forward to seeing what the two leaders in this category can do to dazzle users, especially multimedia enthusiasts.
DRM The reports of DRM's demise have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, the online music industry is moving away from DRM-protected formats to standard MP3 downloads. But what does that mean for movies, TV, and software? The good news is that I haven't heard any announcements of new DRM formats this year. So what's the future of DRM? I'll be asking that question of just about everyone I meet with this year at CES.
Things that simplify life Technology is wonderful until it stops working, or until it becomes impossible to integrate with the other wonderful technologies it's supposed to connect to. (Have you tried to set up a home theater system without professional help?) I'll be keeping an eye out for technologies that actually make life simpler. I heard of two candidates last night and will take a closer look at them this week.
Anything else you think I should look at while I'm here? Hit the Talkback button and let me know.