Every year when I go to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, while most attendees are ogling over televisions and video games, I scour the show looking for the products that will have the biggest real world impact for businesses. This is my list of the five best from CES 2010.
Keep in mind that most of these products deal with mundane things like battery charging and printing, and aren't very flashy, but I think they can offer some good value nonetheless.
5. Targus Premium Laptop Charger
Computer accessory-maker Targus unveiled its new Premium Laptop Charger at CES. There are several features that make this thing innovative. First, it allows you to charge both your laptop and cellphone from a single outlet. Second, it works as both an AC charger for a standard socket and a DC charger in your car. And third, it is future-proofed because it has interchangeable tips and Targus offers free tips for the life of the product (as long you register the product online). The only thing you pay for the tips is about five bucks for shipping.
The product comes with tips for nine different laptop brands, a mini-USB tip, and a tip for iPod/iPhone. Once caveat: there are no tips for Mac laptops, since Apple makes the chargers proprietary. The retail price of the product is $149, which is a little steep, but when you consider that it essentially takes the place of four chargers (laptop AC, cellphone AC, laptop DC, cellphone DC) and it allows you to carry fewer cords, then it makes sense.
I'm not sure many business folks will run out and buy this to replace their current chargers, but if you need a replacement laptop charger or you want a second or third charger then this one could be a great option.
4. Lexmark Platinum Pro905
There's hardly any technology less exciting than printers but at CES Lexmark showed off its new Platinum Pro905 all-in-one that offers a great opportuntiy for small businesses and remote offices to save money on printing costs. Its black ink cartridges cost just $4.99, and each of its three color cartridges are $9.99. The device itself, which serves as a printer, copier, scanner, and fax machine, retails for $399 and comes with a five-year warranty.
The product also offers 802.11n wireless, printing directly from an iPhone (photos only for now), and Web-connected printer apps called SmartSolutions that allow the Pro905 to automate common tasks like scanning a document and emailing it to your accountant.
3. Powermat Wireless Charger
Powermat's wireless charging system for smartphones and other small devices was one of the big hits at last year's CES when it was first announced. The product officially hit the market in the U.S. at Best Buy and Target in the fall and has reportedly sold over 250,000 units.
Powermat allows you to replace your device batteries with Powermat batteries and battery doors (adding a little weight and bulk) and then simply laying them on a mat to charge them instead of plugging them in. At CES 2010, Powermat showed off the next generation of its product, which includes a new selection of mats in various shapes and sizes and, most importantly, new technology that makes the doors and battery covers integrate much more seamlessly and without adding any weight or bulk to the devices, especially smartphones.
The example below shows the existing Powermat battery cover on the right (with the raised finish) and the 2.0 battery cover on the left (naturally integrated with the existing device design). This is how Powermat will work with virtually any case that has a removable battery. However, that does not include the iPhone.
2. BlackBerry Presenter
Research in Motion unveiled a new accessory at CES: The BlackBerry Presenter. It's a little box that connects to a standard conference room projector and allows you to run a PowerPoint presentation wirelessly from your BlackBerry.
If you have BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), you can even email the PPT file to yourself and then just run the presentation from that email message. It will enable a lot of road warriors to ditch their laptops when they travel to give presentations, especially on same-day trips. Hooking up a laptop to a unfamiliar projector is a chronic help desk problem. The BlackBerry Projector can make it a little simpler. Just connect it to a VGA port and click the button on the top to activate it.
The device costs $199 and it requires BlackBerry OS 4.6 or later.
1.PlasticLogic QUE proReader
The PlasticLogic QUE was one of the most anticipated product launches of CES 2010. A lot of information had been revealed or leaked beforehand, but most of us tended to think of the QUE as an ereader oriented toward newspapers and magazines and aimed at business professionals.
The reality exceed those expectations as the QUE proReader turned out to be what PlasticLogic CEO Richard Archuleta called a "wireless briefcase." Not only does the QUE have deals in place with all of the top business periodicals, but it also syncs with Microsoft Exchange, provides "print-to-device" functionality, reads Microsoft Office documents and PDFs, and allows BlackBerry users to transfer data from their smartphones.
Unfortunately, there was another way in which the QUE exceeded expectations: the price. The two models cost $650 and $800. At that price, it will have to compete with tablet and slate computers.