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Saturday, January 10, 2009
My personal CES 2009 highlights [updated]
One of the things I miss about working at CNET (OK, the only thing I miss about working at CNET -- I kid, I kid!) is not getting to go to CES. I had a blast last year covering the event with my colleagues Jason Hiner and Bill Detwiler. This year, though, I had to live vicariously through them, Dave Zatz, Engadget and Gizmodo.

Although the crowds were smaller and there wasn't big controversy like last year's Blu-ray/HD-DVD news, there were still some very cool products shown. Here is my personal list of favorites.

1. Windows 7 beta
I've had Vista on a couple of PCs here at home since the Fall of 2006. I finally switched back to XP when I bought my Acer Aspire One netbook last month. I am so ready for an new OS that doesn't require 3GB of RAM to run properly.

I am currently in the process of downloading the beta now. Because it is an upgrade from Vista, I will have to re-install Vista on a test machine before I can try it out.

Early reviews are positive. Of course, it would be hard to be worse than Vista, right?

2. Slacker for the Blackberry
Even before last year's CES, I was a big fan of Slacker (I'm listening to my custom hair metal station as I type this). I met with Jonathan Sasse, VP of Product, last year when they unveiled the first generation Slacker Portable.

This year, Slacker delivered the beta version of their much-anticipated Blackberry app. The software turns your Blackberry into a Slacker Portable.

Photo from Dave Zatz. Read his coverage.

The UI and music collection of Slacker are both excellent. And while I love my Slacker Portable, I can't wait to get it on my Storm (The beta app doesn't support the Storm yet).

3. SlingPlayer Mobile for Blackberry
I actually got to see a demo of the Blackberry version of SPM last year when I visited Dave Zatz at the Sling booth.

Dave Zatz showing off SlingPlayer Mobile's new Blackberry support
Dave Zatz showing me SPM for Blackberry at CES 2008

Just days before this year's CES, Sling released the beta to the public. As with the Slacker app, there is no official Storm version yet. Some Sling community members have had success using the Curve version. I haven't been successful in getting it to run for more than a few seconds.

Slingplayer on Blackberry Storm
The Curve version of SPM installed on my Blackberry Storm

Sling is working on a Storm version and I can't wait to get it.

4. Eye-fi video support
We are a two Eye-fi household, so I was excited to see the addition of video support. Amy shoots a lot of video on her camera and it is a pain to have to extract those files from the Eye-fi card manually.

Eye-Fi announced that their Wi-Fi SD cards will soon support direct upload to YouTube.

I hope they add support for other video sites like Flickr and Vimeo, but it will be a great start just to be able to transfer video files from your camera to your PC.

5. Dish Network's 922 DVR / Sling HD monitor
Since Echostar acquired Sling Media last year, the company has started integrating Sling technology into their set-top boxes.

Photo from Gizmodo

This year, Dish and Sling deliver a new, "Slingloaded" DVR (ViP 922) which features a 1TB HD DVR with Sling's placeshifting built in.

Photo from Gizmodo. Read their coverage.

While that is pretty cool, the most pleasant surprise was the 15" HD display with Sling integration that allows you to pull in video from the 922 or other Slingbox source wirelessly. Kind of takes the SlingCatcher concept and bakes it into an HD display. Very cool.

Not sure if the 922 is enough for me to switch to Dish; however, I'm all over the idea of a Sling-enabled display.

[UPDATE 1/14/2009:] According to Dave Zatz, the Sling display will only work with the 922 DVR. Won't work with standalone Slingboxes. Bummer.

6. Hava Sociable TV
Hava is one of the companies I met with at last year's CES. I also own the Hava Titanium HD Wi-Fi placeshifting box which is a lot like a Slingbox but with some key differences (like support for simultaneous connections to the same Hava box, free mobile software).

Photo from Dave Zatz. Read his coverage.

This year, Hava announced Sociable TV which will allow users to share live or DVRed content with friends via a web interface. According to Dave Zatz's coverage, Sociable TV "is slated to arrive mid-year, assuming the studios, networks, or lawyers don't intervene, and will include other 'sociable' features such as friends list, text chat, and content starring."

I've been a big fan of the idea of social TV since the relaunch of at CNET a few years ago. I had suggested to the product them that they could allow users to share what shows they were currently watching and dreamed of a day when friends could actually tune into shows and watch (and interact) with their friends. Looks like we're getting closer to that idea with Sociable TV.

7. Mikz
Keeping with the social theme, I really like the idea of Conveneer's Mikz software. It will allow you to create a social network using the content on your (and your friends') mobile phones. So, if I go to CES or SXSWi and take a lot of great photos or videos with my phone, I could share that with my friends with Mikz. According to Mari Silbey's coverage, there is also a Facebook app in the works.

Photo from Mari Silbey. Read her coverage.

I absolutely love the idea of making more devices "social." Of course, some might argue that a phone is already pretty social with that old-fashioned calling feature.

Mikz was being demoed at Qualcomm's booth and is currently limited to a select Qualcomm handsets.

So that's my list of the new products that I'm excited about from CES 2009. What was the product you're most excited about from CES 2009?

About Shawn Morton

Married father of 6; VP of Social Media at JPMorgan Chase; gluten-free; gadget enthusiast; hair metal aficionado; #Movember man View more on LinkedIn.