Like many in the technology world, much of team Re/code has taken up residence in Las Vegas this week for International CES, the industry’s biggest gadget convention. Rather than bombard you with rewritten press releases of gadgets and stuff nobody will ever buy, we plan to pick just three things — themes, news, or something quirky — we think you should know about every day of the show.
1. (Slightly) Bigger Better Faster Stronger
It’s boring to ding CES for being a hotbed of incremental improvements, but goshdarnit, it’s the truth. So far, the array of gadget debuts has included a lot of feature additions to existing devices, with most every other new thing a device similar to one that competitors already make. For instance, GPS tracker maker Garmin now has a more basic activity tracking band called the Vivofit ($129, available in the first quarter). Like the Misfit Shine and the Fitbug, it uses a coin battery, so it doesn’t have to be regularly charged — only once per year.
Also, the nifty mobile video editing app Magisto now has a niftier version that helps people compose and edit a video while they shoot it, by giving them live feedback and learning what they think is important (free, but $5 for an upcoming premium service for longer movies). The new Pebble smartwatches look much cooler, and the new Basis smartwatch now has a better band and tracks REM sleep.
The Inmotion SCV looks and acts a lot like a Segway, but is about half the price and a third of the size ($2,299, available later this month). MakerBot will sell a new printer this spring that’s somewhat more accessible at a cost of $1,375.
Let’s not get too persnickety. There’s nothing wrong with making existing products better or cheaper.
One incremental improvement that seemed like it could have significant impact is Corning’s new antimicrobial Gorilla Glass, which the company said is just as strong as its existing products, but will now include ionic silver that functions like embedded hand sanitizer. So sometime in the future, the ATMs of the world could be a lot less gross.
2. Webbed and Curved TVs
Monday’s news was heavy on the TVs, with two standout trends. First, TV operating systems that are based on the Web — like LG’s WebOS TV, Mozilla’s plans to adapt Firefox OS for TVs through a partnership with Panasonic, and Roku’s scheme to bring its Web video content directly through TVs made with Hisense and TCL. (You can’t mention that theme without name-checking the $35 Google Chromecast dongle. Done.)
Why would you want the Web in your TV? It’s searchable, it’s more open, you don’t have to rely on idiosyncratic apps and operating systems, and you can usually use fewer remote controls.
Both Samsung and LG also talked up their new 105-inch curved televisions. Why would you want a curved TV? Michael Bay isn’t the only one who has trouble articulating the answer to that question (after a teleprompter snafu at the Samsung event on Monday, he fled the stage and later blogged that he’d embarrassed himself).
You might also be flummoxed by the price tag. LG’s curved TV will cost $69,999. Samsung hasn’t yet decided what multiple of a full college tuition to charge.
3. The Curtain Is Done Being Raised
We’ve been writing about CES for days. With all the media previews, keynotes and press conferences so far, it might be surprising to learn that the core of the event doesn’t fully start until Tuesday.
But as of today, this is a full-on convention, with small cities worth of exhibitor booths, and rooms upon rooms full of mini-conferences with panels and keynotes of their own. The CES directory lists more than 3,500 exhibitors, and that’s just the official contingent.
Still, attendance will likely be down this year due to weather-induced cancellations from people on the East Coast.
But for those who made it to the mild Vegas climate, also on tap for Tuesday will be keynotes from Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, Sony’s Kaz Hirai and Cisco’s John Chambers.