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CES: Mobile gadgets at Digital Experience!

I arrived at CES in Vegas and plan to stick around and see if there are any new mobile gadgets that may be worth picking up in 2008. While I do like to wander the show floor and find hidden treasures, it is much more productive to attend press events where vendors are brought in to offer one-on-one time in a single venue. The first such event I attended last night was the Digital Experience! press event. In the past, it seemed like this was a rather intimate affair, but it has grown to be a rather large event and was almost too big this year IMHO and I wasn't able to see everything I wanted to in the three hours available.
matthew-miller
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributor writer on

I arrived at CES in Vegas and plan to stick around and see if there are any new mobile gadgets that may be worth picking up in 2008. While I do like to wander the show floor and find hidden treasures, it is much more productive to attend press events where vendors are brought in to offer one-on-one time in a single venue. The first such event I attended last night was the Digital Experience! press event. In the past, it seemed like this was a rather intimate affair, but it has grown to be a rather large event and was almost too big this year IMHO and I wasn't able to see everything I wanted to in the three hours available.

The very first device I saw off to my right as I walked into the hall and one that I was very interested in checking out in person was the REDFLY Mobile Companion. With the recent death of the Palm Foleo it was interesting to see another company come out with a device that appeared to be similar at first. However, the REDFLY device is actually quite different in that the device has no integrated processor or operating system and serves as a true mobile companion to Windows Mobile 5 and 6 touch and non-touch screen devices. It is essentially a keyboard and 8 inch display for your device to help you be more productive. It also serves to charge your mobile device if you connect it via USB. You can also connect to the REDFLY via Bluetooth. The device is covered in a great rubber coating to make it easy to grip and provides a soft touch to the device. It is about 2 pounds and measures 1 inch x 6 inches x 9 inches with an 8-inch diagonal 800x480 display and 8.3 inch 80-key QWERTY keyboard. The battery life is stated as 8 hours. There is a USB port for flash drives, keyboard, or mouse and a VGA port for an external projector or display. OQO was there with some of their latest updates to the Model 02 device, including a 64MB SSD drive.

Windows Mobile devices are quite powerful today and I can see the usefulness in having a much larger display and keyboard, especially for trying to work on an airplane. There is no syncing to worry about and the device is as secure as your Windows Mobile device so there is no additional security issue with such a device. The only issue I can see at this time is that the device has a MSRP of US$499. Is there a market for such a device? If so, what would the optimal price be that business and consumer users would be willing to pay?

Another device I saw that I would love to pick up is the newly announced Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium UMPC. This newest version of the Q1 Ultra line has a 1.33 GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 80GB hard drive, improved split-QWERTY keyboard, and more. The Windows XP version has a MSRP of US$1,399 with a Windows Vista model scheduled for future release. I saw the device running Windows Vista and it was very snappy and responsive with the new Intel processor.

There were several mobile phones to check out at Digital Experience!, including the Samsung Blackjack II, LG Voyager (very nice device), Palm Centro, HTC devices, Nokia devices, BlackBerry devices (the newer firmware on the Verizon Pearl looks great with video and voice recording functionality), and more. There really wasn't any major new announcement of a new mobile phone that I could find at the event, but it was great to get a bit of hands-on time with some devices.

I also had a chance to use a couple of non-phone HP PDAs. The HP iPAQ 110 and 210 were very nice devices. In my PDA history I was a heavy user of HP iPAQ devices and it was great to see there are still a couple being made by HP. I think the HP 110 is a wonderful PDA for the low to mid level user and the 210 is very powerful for the high-end user. It reminded me a lot of the wonderful Dell Axim X51v, but has an even larger VGA display.

I also played with the HP iPAQ 310 Travel Companion and was given a CES travel kit to evaluate. The 310 is a Windows CE device designed for mobile navigation purposes and I was impressed by the slim form factor and beautiful display. The maps have a 3D view that really gives you a feel for what you actually see as you navigate around the area. I'll have a lot more to say about this device as I put it to the test over the next couple of weeks. One secondary purpose of my trip to CES is to find some good Bluetooth hands-free solutions that I can recommend to family and friends since holding onto your cellphone to make calls will be illegal in Washington State in July of this year. The iPAQ 310 Travel Companion can serve as a wireless Bluetooth speakerphone and I plan to test out this capability.

Some other Bluetooth hands-free solutions I was able to see at the event were the Jawbone headset, Plantronics headsets, Parrot solutions, and Motorola headsets. I have used a couple of Parrot Bluetooth solutions in the past and may give their latest Bluetooth speakerphone product that clips to your visor a try in the near future. I was impressed with their new music/Bluetooth solution that has a removable face plate that reveals connectors for USB flash drives and iPods so you can easily take your digital music along and have a Bluetooth solution integrated into your car's speakers. The CD may not have much of a future in your automobile with solutions like these becoming available.

One accessory that I will definitely be ordering soon after CES is the Eye-Fi wireless 2GB memory card. I finally saw this SD card camera solution in action and you can quickly upload photos from any SD-capable camera to your PC or any number of online photo sharing websites, including Flickr, Costco (where I get my photos printed), SmugMug, and more. It is available for a MSRP of US$99.

Are there any specific mobile products you would like me to try to track down at CES?

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