CES 2010 Preview: What's hot at this year's show

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Wireless Networks

Two of the four major wireless service providers—AT&T and Sprint—are appearing at this year’s CES, while the other two—Verizon and T-Mobile—aren’t holding any events or meetings. AT&T is hosting an all-day event for mobile app developers, at which several AT&T Mobility executives will discuss mobile devices that are designed to run on the AT&T 3G network and are scheduled to arrive in coming months.

Sprint will also talk about new mobile devices at CES. The carrier is holding several events where it will talk up its leadership position in rolling out the nation’s largest real 4G (WiMax) services through its partner Clearwire. The Clearwire network now serves nearly thirty cities, up from just two cities at the beginning of 2009. Sprint may also use the event to announce plans for a new kind of smartphone that will run on both its 3G network and Clearwire’s WiMax network.—Mark Sullivan

GPS and car tech

TomTom’s XL 340S Live

Garmin and TomTom have kept a low profile about their CES plans so far, promising to show their lineups of navigation devices but not hinting at any fresh ideas. Though we could be in for a major snoozer from these GPS giants, perhaps big surprises are in store regarding the category’s efforts to beat mobile phones and apps such as Google Maps Navigation, not to mention netbooks and tablet devices. A CES panel discussion that includes executives from TomTom, Garmin, and Nokia may shed light on what’s to come.

Count on the intersection of Internet and automobile to take a big chunk of car tech’s CES buzz. Ford will deliver a keynote, no doubt to hype additions to its Sync platform, such as the ability to plug in a 3G USB modem and turn Ford cars into Wi-Fi hotspots. Pandora has big plans to storm automobiles in the years ahead. The first step is to develop stereo systems that act as dashboards for mobile-phone Pandora apps—and Alpine is up for an award in car audio innovation for doing just that. How long will it be until Web-connected cars can tap Internet radio and other services without the mediation of a phone? A panel discussion may provide insights about the likely timetable.—Jared Newman

Home Networking

At this year’s CES, the traditional home-networking companies like Belkin, D-Link, Linksys, and Netgear will focus less on faster wireless routers, and more on home-entertainment-oriented products. The 802.11n wireless standard finally won approval in late 2009, but router makers had already embraced the standard and launched “wireless N” products, so you won’t hear much talk about the new standard in Las Vegas this year.

The Internet video revolution is well underway, and consumer networking companies are competing to find the best way to get pull audio and video content from the Internet or from a computer’s hard drive—collecting, cataloging, and managing it, and sending it to screens large and small around the home. Such products connect directly to the Internet to access (and to play or store) Net video, and they also locate and organize Net video from devices throughout the home network.

Boxee’s set-top box

These devices were a big theme at last year’s show, but this year you’ll see more actual product announcements and debuts, including numerous new Net video set-top boxes and lots of upgrades to existing boxes. Many of these products will have reinvented user interfaces, will support more file types, and will be much easier to set up and use. For instance, D-Link will show off its new Boxee box, which comes with the popular video management software inside and supports a long list of Net video file types.—Mark Sullivan

Storage

The big news at CES 2010 will be about storage that uses USB 3.0. The new, faster USB interface promises high-speed transfers, and storage will be the first peripheral to take maximum advantage of it. Buffalo Technology has already jumped into the game with a drive, but we expect an avalanche of USB 3.0-related announcements at the show.

USB 3.0 traveled a long and bumpy road to market, and some of the early implementations may require a third-party add-in card—much as happened in the earlier transition from USB 1.0 to USB 2.0. Two motherboards are now available with USB 3.0 support, but the interface is not yet widespread.—Melissa Perenson

Keyboards, mice, and remote controls

New input devices debuting at CES emphasize ergonomics. Smartfish is introducing a new product based on its ErgoMotion technology (already available in the company’s ErgoMotion Keyboard and ErgoMotion Mouse). Designed to relieve stress from repetitive motion, the new peripheral automatically adjusts to the user’s natural hand and wrist positions for more-comfortable computing.

Hillcrest Labs’ Loop pointer

Hillcrest Labs has received a 2010 CES Innovations Award for its Loop pointer, a loop-shaped “air mouse” designed as a pointing device for a computer connected to a TV. The company’s Freespace motion control and pointing technology also appears in other devices and partner products that will be on display at CES.—Peggy Watt

Audio

Appealing audio offerings are all over the map this year. High-end audiophiles will delight in Definitive Technology’s XTR-50 speakers, which flank your HDTV and have a depth of just 1.5 inches off the wall. For people who rank practical convenience above sound fidelity, Myine’s Abbee FM radio automatically deletes commercials and DJ talk from radio stations. And for those who want surround sound but can’t accommodate a six-speaker rig, Coby is launching a 3D audio sound bar that shapes stereo output to emulate the surround-sound experience.—Jared Newman

Green tech

An expanded Sustainable Planet Spotlight section on the CES floor this year will feature some three dozen exhibitors, and many other vendors will highlight energy-efficient products—notably TVs—as well. Ecologically friendly products slated to appear at CES range from a Sanyo electric bike to energy-monitoring systems for home and business.

Teridian Semiconductor will show its smart energy meters for home users and for inclusion in smart appliances and power supplies. GreenPeak will demonstrate its sensor technology for low- and alternative-power, low-maintenance wireless networks. Embertec will present what it calls the first fully automated digital power-saving technology.

Green Plug is announcing several new partners for its Greentalk technology, which enables various electronics to communicate over power sources, to monitor energy consumption, and to run more efficiently. Another maker of power management products, iGo, will show its line of universal chargers and other devices equipped with its iGo Green Technology, which regulates and minimizes power consumption.

The Sanyo Synergetic Hybrid Bicycle, nicknamed the “eneloop bike,” allows riders to generate power while coasting or braking. It has received a CES Innovations 2010 Design and Engineering Award in the Eco-Design and Sustainable Technology category. The 26-inch bike has a motor and electrical system, too, and it adjusts to provide assisted power in difficult terrain.—Peggy Watt

This story, "CES 2010 Preview: What's hot at this year's show" was originally published by PCWorld.

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