The Little Things

The Little Things

Finding The Good Things In Small Packages At CES

There’s no doubt about it, despite the bumps in the road caused by economic conditions, “big” is definitely a word that describes the annual International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the 2009 edition of which was held in Las Vegas early last month. Huge attendance, huge exhibit spaces, and huge announcements.On the other hand, for all the ways in which “big” is an adjective that can be applied to CES, there were many things that were small. Some in size, some in their likelihood of coming to pass, at least within the current year, and some in their cost. However,

Pico projectors may not only be held in your hand, they can project onto, well, any surface, even in full ambient light. small is not always a bad thing, so in reporting on some of the trends and products from CES that are of interest to the systems professional, we’re taking an unusual approach. Thinking small.

When it comes to projection, small was definitely in. Products seen in prototype or pre-production at Infocomm or SID were all over the place at CES. Pico Projectors are no longer merely a technical demonstration. Products are available from several brands using either DLP or LCOS as the basis for the imaging engine technology. Optoma, 3M, “Cinemin” from WowWee Group, and Microvision’s “Showwx Pico Projector” were only a few. They work, they’re affordable and they throw decent images even in reasonable ambient light. Now it’s up to you to see what the right application is for these small sized wonders.

Another product specification area that is shrinking is power consumption. All of the major brands promoted the lower energy consumption of their current flat panels over prior years’ models. As “green” becomes an important thing to consider when specifying products, this is very good news for all of us.

Samsung’s CES display pointed to the lower energy consumption of new-generation flat panel displays. Although the Flexicords are typically 10 feet long when fully extended, they may be coiled or bent around a mandrill without any compromise in performance.

Another “little” thing seen around CES was the “Click- Free” line of backup devices from Toronto-based Storage Appliance Corp. At first glance they look like standard portable hard drives, but where they differ is that they contain all the software needed to backup or restore a PC’s hard drive without the need for any additional software.

Even better, along with the ClickFree models that are based around hard drives, their “Transformer” model looks like a USB dongle cord, but within the dongle is the same software that powers the self-contained models, which lets you connect any USB memory device from a standard hard drive to USB thumb drives or memory cards in a USB adapter. Again, the benefit is that once the ClickFree is connected you don’t have to waste time selecting files or clicking around. As the name implies, it is (relatively) ClickFree, and a great way to provide options for backup and file portability.

“Little” things are often black boxes, and other such products at CES that could become another interesting job-site tool are the XLink cell phone connectivity products from Calgary-based Xtreme Technologies. Each enables you to connect up to three cell phones, and in one model a landline, as well, into a single line feed that you can connect to standard wired or cordless phones. Imagine that you’re on a somewhat remote site all day, and you want to place cell phones where there is best reception yet have them charged all day and let your staff be able to receive and make calls throughout the location, and perhaps add a fax machine or a VoIP bridge.

One more “little” thing at CES was the first portable Blu-ray player from Panasonic. Yes, you can certainly use the Blu-ray drive in a laptop to show HD presentations or to playback HD program content via HDMI either to ring out a system or to feed a temporary video display system, but often using an expensive computer that might be needed elsewhere would be a waste for those purposes. Here, a small, battery operated Blu-ray player could be just what the doctor ordered, and it will be available in May.

Michael Heiss ( is a technology and marketing consultant based in Los Angeles, CA.