Ahh, Las Vegas. There’s no place quite like it. Whether you’re playing the slots on the strip or, as I was, attending the Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, there’s no mistaking you’re in Sin City.
Take for example the woman with the mini-TV set on her head. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone like her in Atlanta, but here it’s commonplace. (By the way, she’s the official Swanson TV Dinner Lady and was at CES to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the TV dinner.)
Or how about this alluring woman, covered in green Spandex, who handed out the daily show program. Nothing like her on Peachtree Street, at least not that I’ve ever seen. But then there’s nothing like the Consumer Electronics Show in Atlanta.
It may appear that the big story from CES was Sony’s new handheld, the CLIE PEG-NZ90, which I covered at length in one of my First Look reports. But the major story is not a single device, rather it is a trend: wireless.
Wireless is suddenly everywhere. There’s Bluetooth in everything from cell phones to handheldss to laptops to printers. There’s Wi-Fi — in all its various forms — connecting us in our homes and offices out to the Internet — wirelessly, of course. And then there’s GPRS, in handhelds, smartphones, and wireless email devices. Wireless is no longer a distant dream, and there’s plenty of evidence of that at CES.
Speaking of wireless, I got my first chance to see the upcoming Tungsten W at the Palm Solutions booth. It’s a Wireless Data device that uses GSM/GPRS. It can be used to place voice calls (with a headset) but I don’t think the term “smartphone” applies in this case. It’s Palm’s answer to the Blackberry, a PDA whose main use is grabbing your email–wherever you may be.
The Tungsten W depends on a keyboard for text input; it doesn’t have a Graffiti area. Its keyboard is fairly easy to use, about par for the course with thumbboards. Like Handspring’s Treo, it replaces silkscreened buttons with hardware ones. Unlike the Treo, you only have to push one button to open the application Launcher.
Though it uses Palm OS 4.1, it uses the hi-res API from OS 5, so it has a 320 by 320 screen, which looks as good as the Tungsten T’s, although I’ve only seen it in good lighting conditions. I don’t know if this is due to its 33MHz processor but screen refreshing is sometimes a bit slow, especially when playing games.
The Tungsten W is comparable in size to the Pocket PC Phone Edition handhelds, and definitely smaller and lighter than the Hitachi model, which comes with a built-in keyboard.
One cool, non-wireless handheld that caught my eye was Sharp’s Zaurus SL-C700. I love the form factor, as well as its beautiful VGA screen. Because the keyboard is oriented length-wise, it is much larger and easier to use than most built-in ones. And at 7.4 oz., the weight seems acceptable, considering all this device offers.
According to a company representative, Sharp hopes to release a version of the SL-C700 in the U.S. sometime this year. Currently, it’s working to improve the device’s performance; launching apps is a bit slow now.
Once open, though, the apps are noteworthy. The word processor, for example, is comparable with that found on a desktop computer.
Though it doesn’t have any wireless capabilities built in, the C700 does have a Compact Flash slot that can use a Wi-Fi card.
Finally, iBIZ was showing off some interesting accessories. There was a leather portfolio case that is also a 4-in-1 card reader. It allows the Palm m500 series and Tungsten T to use SD, MMC, SmartMedia,and Memory Sticks. It also has a mini-USB port and cord that allows the handheld to recharge and synchronize with a desktop or laptop. This device is so new, it doesn’t have a name yet. iBiz hasn’t set a price yet either but it does expect to have the device out by the end of February.
iBiz is also working on the Xela, a combination keyboard and case (see picture at right), also for the m500 series and Tungsten T. It’s somewhat larger than other mini-keyboards but the keys are almost large enough to touch-type with. It should be available in a couple of months.
Well, I’ve got to catch my flight back to Atlanta. Until next year, Las Vegas.