The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) plays a much bigger role in business computing than it used to, but not just because it's the last big-blowout, broad-spectrum IT trade show still running.
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As Cisco Systems Inc. CEO John Chambers said last year, describing the ubiquitous computing model his company calls the Human Network primarily, but other advanced consumer technology as well, "This is going to start at home, but it will come into the business environment, and pretty quickly, using the same underlying architecture. There is a market change occurring that is going to be driven across the board."
Instant messaging, social networking, ad hoc online teleconferencing, file sharing, Voice over IP (VoIP) systems and mobile computing all swarmed out of the consumer market to change both corporate IT and the value-added resellers (VARs) who serve it.
Even something as sophisticated as fixed-mobile convergence -- intimate connections between cellular and Wi-Fi networks -- will start with home-based femtocells and gradually move into the corporate market, experts predict.
Of the giant chorus of product announcements coming out of CES this week, which are most worthy of the attention of VARs?
- Bill Gates said during his Consumer Electronics Show keynote address that Microsoft sold more than 100 million copies Windows Vista in 2007. But a closer look at that number shows a less successful reality for Microsoft: that Vista shipped on just 39% of new PCs in 2007, according to Information Week. By comparison, Windows XP shipped on 67% of new PCs during its first year on the market. 01/08
- Despite the noise and hype, the Consumer Electronics show is haunted by the potential of economic recession that could squash many of the grand plans on display. Sony CEO Howard Stringer said Monday that the financial picture is full of unanswerable questions about unemployment, GDP and other indicators, but that it's too soon to be pessimistic. Cisco Systems Inc. CEO John Chambers has also expressed caution, though he expressed caution about the U.S. economy several times in 2007. 01/08
- Whirlpool is going back to the good new days, reviving the idea of an IT-enhanced refrigerator. But, instead of trying to make it email owners when the milk runs out, Whirlpool is just replacing the refrigerator-magnet paradigm with a display that stores and displays digital photos. Best Buy already sells one model. But Whirlpool is also allowing other manufacturers to build modules that can replace the removable digital-photo display that comes with the CentralPark fridge with an iPod speaker system, WiFi-enabled touch-screen tablet PC or other modules. 01/08
- Microsoft, which announced its Windows Home Server product at last year's CES and shipped it in November, is going back to the same well, announcing enhancements including compatibility with 64-bit versions of Windows Vista, more efficient power use and more automatic backups. The package, called Windows Home Server Power Pack 1, will be available by automatic update in the spring.
- Netgear launched a line of 802.11n routers, bridges and adapters that use the 5 GHz frequency band as well as the usual 2.4 GHz band, theoretically allowing it to avoid congestion in areas where many wireless access points or routers compete for space. The Dual Band router will cost $130, or $160 with five Gigabit Ethernet ports. A USB Wireless-N Rangemax Dual Band adapter will cost $100.
- Intel Corp. announced a 45-nanometer version of its Centrino laptop processors. The new chips are smaller and consume less energy, extending the life of laptop batteries, the company announced. The chips will also appear in desktop PCs and servers including, reportedly, machines from Hewlett-Packard Co., Toshiba Systems Inc. and Apple Computer Inc. The company also announced a series of new editions of the Intel Core processors that are also designed to use less power, as well as a chipset designed to add WiMax capability to portable devices.
- HDMI Licensing LLC announced that more than 750 consumer electronics and PC companies signed on to support the High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) -- a specification designed to create a standard way to build HD connections among home-theater, computing and other components.
- Sprint Nextel Corp. announced it would charge subscribers a standard $55 per month to connect several devices to the WiMax service it will launch this year. Customers currently pay different fees for each device.
- A variety of companies also announced they would be driving environmentally friendly programs through the channel and direct to customers. Among them is Dell, which is expected to announce it will accept older computers for recycling without requiring a new purchase.