CES 2006: Day Three

Finally, the last day—for me at least. This monster of a trade show will lumber along, inhaling the IT zeitgeist and spewing gouts of radioactive flame for another day. (Godzilla reference too much?)

Okay, enough with the complaints. The show definitely had its moments, a few of which I share with you now as the Tropicana's nice housekeeping crew stares daggers at me for something I seem to have done to the bathroom:

Most important news: It's a gizmo show, but I'd have to say that Intel's  Viiv announcement is the one most likely to make enterprise IT sit up and pay attention. With Viiv (pronounced 'VIVE'), the chip maker seems to be getting into the content game. Like its predecessor, Centrino, Viiv is a combination of hardware and software, including Intel's latest Core Duo (Napa) and Pentium D 900 series chips. Viiv, which Intel CEO Paul Otellini called a platform during his keynote, is designed to bring a wide range of content, from sports to first-run flicks, to anyone with a broadband connection. (I swear, that word is beginning to sound like nails on a blackboard to me. See my platform rant: "Word of the Year".)

This is the technology that will provide the processing speed, power, and standards to bring high-def, media center-style computing to consumers. As Intel envisions it, a Viiv-equipped PC will serve as the nerve center of a home entertainment network, linking Viiv-compatible TVs, games and music devices, and delivering everything from classic TV shows, to Olympic highlights, to Bollywood movies—even first-run Hollywood films while they are still showing at the Cineplex. This might actually be considered disruptive technology, depending on its role in the current shift in the way we consume media.

Biggest Non-Event: The Bill Gates pre-show keynote. Microsoft's Chairman and Chief Software Architect unveiled MTV Networks' new music service (Urge), demoed Vista's photo editing and image search features, and flogged Microsoft Live (online content), the latest version of the Media Center, and the Xbox 360. For this we needed a keynote?

My Favorite Keynote Moment: Robin Williams turns to Google's Larry Page when neither jumped in with an answer to an attendee's question and said, ''Go get 'em, Mensa boy, it's your turn.''

My Favorite Gizmo: The Pepper Pad. It's a handheld computer designed to access the internet via Wi-Fi, but it can also be used as a remote control for a PC, TV, stereo, or other electronic devices. Man, I'm just getting lazier and lazier.

Coolest non-tech display: Jimi Hendrix's Psychedelic Flying V, on display in the Gibson Guitar tent. The company was promoting a new digital guitar that plugs into a processor with an Ethernet cable and a new digital jukebox that pulls music from the Internet. ''Gibson is not just a guitar company,'' the spokesperson told me. ''It's a technology company.''

Final celeb tally: Lots of Hollywood celebrities and MTV pop stars were sighted at this year's show, both on the keynote stage and off. Here's my final list: Tom Cruise, Ellen DeGeneres, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hanks, Danny DeVito, Robin Williams, Justin Timberlake, director Ron Howard, record producer Quincy Jones, The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown, Snoop Dogg, and Donny Osmond. I should have brought my autograph book.

My favorite conference rumor: I have it on good authority that Britney Spears showed up at the CNET soiree. Congrats, guys. When the pop divas start crashing your parties, it's fair to say you've arrived.

Whatever happened to...? I bumped into the long lost Tom Harvey at the badge pickup booth. Tom is a PR and marketing maven, formerly with Nadel Phelan, who dropped of my radar a couple of years ago. Turns out that he and his better half quietly moved to Susanville, CA, to pursue other opportunities. But Tom is back in the PR game with his own outfit, theCOMMUNICATIONS, looking lean and cool as ever, soul patch intact. I mention Tom because he was something of a rarity in my experience: a PR rep who never wasted my time. He's a pro, and I'm glad to pass on his new email address: theCommunications@publicist.com.

And finally: I just have to mention Dennis Jacobsen, CEO of Integrated Business Management Software , a Penticton, BC-based company specializing in point-of-sale, inventory control, accounting, and customer management software solutions. He and I struck up a conversation as we waited in the interminable hotel check-in line the night before the show. Dennis, like me, is what we call back in the Midwest a ''good eater''which gives you a real advantage when a cyclone touches down in the middle of your trailer park, but is a somewhat less desirable trait when you have to be on your feet all day. I was bragging on my conference kicks, the aforementioned Timberland loafers (featuring the Smart Comfortwear System), when Dennis revealed that his shoes were... new . ''I just bought them,'' he told me. ''I don't know what I was thinking.''

Now there's a guy with something to complain about.

I'm outa here!

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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