Saturday, January 13, 2007

CES 2007 Review - Day Two 1/9/07

Tuesday was a pretty busy day for me at CES. I started it off with a breakfast meeting with Jim Kinne of Digimeister Design. I was held up waiting in line for the monorail, so I was about 15 to 20 minutes late, but since Jim was also held up in traffic, he had only been waiting for me for a few minutes. I was planning to sit in on Michael Dell's 9:00 AM keynote address that morning, but meeting with Jim was much more useful. Besides, I can always stream Michael's keynote off the Dell's webserver.

After breakfast, I headed over to the Las Vegas Convention Center where all the big companies were strutting their stuff. I stopped by the Microsoft booth to ask a few questions about Vista Media Center. I'm having some problems with video playback and was hoping someone could help me out or at least point me to the best support resource. I also took a look at demos of the latest Office 2007 while I was there. The new UI for Office is pretty cool. I'm looking forward to installing it on my office machine once I finally upgrade it to Vista. Of course Microsoft had a huge booth and the big emphasis was on the upcoming consumer roll out for Vista. They also had a big section within their mega-booth for showing off their Zune. One of the many Microsoft stages was promoting Crossfader, a Microsoft created online community for digital artists. During the Crossfader promotion, I briefly met Arif Gursel who is a Program Manager for Microsoft's Devices and Media Team. We didn't get much of a chance to talk, but he seemed pretty interested in what Amplio Audio is doing. I'll try to touch bases with him in the near future.

There was a guy from Hewlett Packard working at the Microsoft booth demonstrating Microsoft's Home Server software running on HP's MediaSmart Server (see picture to the left). This kind of reminds me of a more user friendly Unraid system. The user doesn't have to worry about setting up a raid array and doesn't have to purchase a set of matching hard disk drives. However, with the Unraid system, every drive execpt the parity drive is providing full storage capacity. For example, with Unraid, if I have 3 x 500 GB drives, I end up with ~ 1 TB of storage space. With the Microsoft Home Server solution, I would get 750 GB of storage space from 3 x 500 GB drives because it is basically mirroring your disks. The Microsoft Home Server sounds a lot easier to set up and manage, so the loss in storage capacity might be a reasonable trade-off. I guess to be fair, I should also mention one other advantage of the Unraid system is price. I would suspect the price of a DIY unraid system to be quite a bit lower than a Microsoft Home Server setup with the same capacity.

I also swung by the Sony booth to say hello to my former co-workers from Sonic Foundry (who's media software division was purchased by Sony a few years ago). Unfortunately, most of them weren't hanging around the booth at that time. I think they were out enjoying CES. I can't blame them - I don't envy anyone who has to work a booth at one of these big shows. Anyhow, I did get to say hi to Gary Rebholz who is now the Training Manager for Sony Media Software, who I haven't seen since I worked at Sonic Foundry. Sony's booth was also pretty large and while I was visiting, there was a live performance featuring Sara Bareilles (see photo to the right).

I also spent some time watching some of the other spectacular exhibits. Panasonic had a bunch of high def plasma screens set up as the backdrop for their stage. This photo to the left shows the performers appearing simultaneously on stage and on the plasma screens to show off the impressive high resolution or realism of their plasma screens. They were trying to imply that you couldn't tell the difference between the live performers and the ones appearing on their plasma screens, but obviously even with the great colors and high contrast, high resolution of these displays, there's a big difference between the actual 3 dimensions of the live performers and the flat 2D displays.

Quite a few companies were showing their latest and greatest LCD HD screens. The ones that were getting the most oohs and aahs were the large screens from LG and Sharp. The LG screen shown in this picture on the left, measures 102" diagonally. If you walked right up to this LG screen, you could see a vertical seam running right down the middle. You had to get very close and stand slightly off to the side to see this. From a typically viewing distance of >10', I don't think you could possibly see it. Sharp's 108" Aquos LCD screen (see photo to the right) was the largest LCD TV I saw at the show and as you can see from their display, they claim it is the largest in the world. This screen was amazing looking and I did not find any seams with close inspection. They also had a bunch of really nice smaller screens like 42", 46", 52" and 65" that looked great. And, it looks like the prices are coming down.

By this time my legs and feet were getting a little sore from standing and walking, but I did get a chance to stop by the booths of Lian Li, Silverstone, Cooler Master and Thermaltake to see the latest and greatest chassis designs for HTPCs and servers. Lian Li might even be a possible source for amplifier chassis because they said they are interested in any potential OEM/ODM project.

After a day full of stomping around the big exhibit hall, a little rest and relaxation was very appealing. The week before CES I received an invitation to a bloggers reception being held later Tuesday afternoon at the Atomic Testing Museum, so I navigated my way over there by shuttle and bus. I met several people, most of which I'd consider professional bloggers. By professional blogger, I mean someone who receives revenue by running advertisements on their blog or through some subscription program. A few of the pro bloggers I met were Doug Felteau, Chief Gizmateer of Gizmos for Geeks, Steve Brobeck, founder of the Blog Business Summit, who mentioned that he has a book that teaches you how to drive more traffic to your blog, Drew Crouch of Ask Dave Taylor!, and Al Carlton of and . There were a few bloggers like myself, who don't try to generate revenue from their blog, but instead use it as a communication tool to talk about their company or products, like Loren Feldman of 1938 Media, and Nick and Dave Gray of Flight Display Systems. Their company sells and installs high end audio/video systems in private jets. Actually, it looks like Nick might be using his blog to meet chicks :).

The last event of the day for me was the 6th annual AVS Forum CES 2007 Party. I made it over to the Sahara Hotel's Golden Ballroom, where the party was held, just in time to get a little bite to eat before they hauled all the food away. I hung out for a little while to listen to the funk and soul, then headed back to my luxurious motel.

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