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CES 2009 Las Vegas

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, attendance at this year’s CES 2009 was down 10%. Feedback from people visiting the show and manning the booths was that it was down more than that. In previous years you could barely walk down the aisles. This year they were wide open. The following is a quick summary of the week.

Biggest Let Down: MacWorld. In previous years, ironically, the buzz at CES was MacWorld and new product announcements. With Steve Jobs a no show and barely any new announcements, it was almost a non-event.

Biggest Surprise: Palm Pre phone. Most people had written Palm off as a phone supplier since the introduction of the iPod. When Palm announced the Pre, their stock went up 35% in one day. Some comments in the blogosphere are that this could actually be competitor to the iPhone. We will have to wait and see.

Everyone has a Netbook. If you make hardware, you probably launched a Netbook at CES. The most talked about was probably the Sony Vaio P. But there were many others. There were new introductions from the market leader, ASUS and Dell, but even Viewsonic, a monitor maker, launched a Netbook.

Most over used phrase Normal People. This phrase refers to all the non-techies out there who have a tough time getting their photos on their TV, or configuring a home network, or connecting their media to all of the above. I must have heard this definition at almost every demo. It is a great focus because we all know how hard it is to do all the above, but they have been trying to get there for a long time.

Home Theatre. In previous years it was who had the biggest flat panel. Given the economic times, it seemed appropriate that this was not the focus of HDTV launches this year. It was more about the thinnest, or the technology such as LCD screens moving to 120 and 240 kHz. Also there was more focus on connecting HDTVs to the internet. The other development in this space is Sound Bars. These are replacing the 5 speaker surround sound Home Theatre In a Box (HTIB) with one bar that can be mounted below the TV. It still gives you surround sound, but without the hassle of running cables around the room.

Connected Media. All the network vendors launched storage and media streaming devices for normal people. Cisco (Linksys), Netgear, Seagate and others all have some kind of devise for home network storage and media sharing. The device that caught my eye and follows the KISS principle was PogoPlug. You simply take a hard drive, put it in the enclosure, plug it into an outlet then plug it into your router. It configures itself and makes the hard drive available to anyone on the network. With the price of hard drivers now below $100 for 1 terabyte of storage this is a great way to increase network storage.

Economy. Lastly, everyone was talking about the economy. Forecasts were showing declines in the single digits for 2009. This doesn’t really fit with the fact that Circuit City will be liquidating 500+ stores and Best Buy had a 70% decline in earnings for the last quarter.