CES is undergoing a major transformation this year, and fast on its way to becoming the technology trade show of the year. After a very disappointing 2003, many of the exhibitors who were past participants in Comdex have since jumped ship, and now intend to forgo that show in the fall of 2004 for CES.
This year, CES 2004 is expected to see between 120,000 and 150,000 participants, making it one of the largest years for the International Consumer Electronics Show. It also helps that the distinction between consumer electronics and computers is steadily blurring.
Motherboards, CPUs, and networking companies are starting to have an increased presence, though not yet outnumbering the traditional CE staples of Audio and Visual tech toys for boys.
This year Transmeta exhibited with a small booth, showcasing its two latest CPUs, the TM8000 Efficeon, and the shrunken down TM5700/TM5900 processors; essentially a TM5800 core with a 1.0mm pitch OPGA package about the size of a postage stamp. This newest iteration of the venerable low power Crusoe processor is sure to garner interest for applications where power efficiency and package footprint are equally important concerns.
Of special note is the newly announced OQO model 1 "Ultra Personal Computer" (or UPC for short). OQO made its debut a year or two ago at PCexpo in New York, and since then this micro PC running WinowsXP has generated substantial interest, even if saleable units remained non-existant until just now.
The new model 1 revision is a highly improved update to the original prototype, and the unit even managed to land a TechTV award amongst the hectic bustle of Microsoft's expansive pavilion. The OQO model 1 will retail for between $1500-$2000 USD by the fall of 2004; running on a 1GHz TM5800 Crusoe processor with 20GB hard drive and 256MB RAM. Battery life is pegged at 6 hours, thanks in part to a transflective LCD screen that can be viewed in direct sunlight just as easily as in the office. The small PC also features Firewire, a microphone, multifunction thumbwheel, a full size USB1.1 port, digital stylus, removable battery, 3.5mm headphone jack (which could make for a very powerful MP3 player with the right software!), external docking cable and support for 1280x1024 external video resolutions.
Aside from the remarkable ability to run WindowsXP on a PC measuring just 3.4" x 4.9" x 0.9" in size (it fits easily in a shirt pocket), the OQO model 1 uses an extremely high resolution RFI-pen sensitive 5" touch screen which allows the user to navigate through documents via a standard digital stylus. What's more, the 5" LCD screen, which is protected within a magnesium alloy frame, slides up to reveal a QWERTY thumb keyboard and TrackStik pointing device like you might find on a full size IBM notebook keyboard hidden below. The OQO Model 1 feels solid, and the design exceptionally well thought out.
With the aide of a docking cable, the OQO unit can be connected to a series of peripherals without the need for multiple adaptor wires. The docking cable features the following ports; VGA output, Ethernet port, additional USB and Firewire ports, audio out, and DC power hook-ups.
Dedicated L/R mouse keys and the TrackStik pointing device on the thumb keyboard make navigation easier on the small scale screen without having to use the stylus pen constantly. A jog dial on the bottom edge of the 0.9" thick unit enables users to quickly scroll through long excel documents, webpages, or other applications.
Given that the OQO model 1 is a highly portable, full-fledged PC, simply plugging in an RJ45 Ethernet cable for internet access wouldn't cut it. With a built in 802.11b WiFi connection you can connect to a local access point and surf the web without wires tailing off. Thanks to a Bluetooth chip, the OQO gains a broadened usefulness for situations where typing out a long document with your thumbs is just counterproductive. For example, with the Bluetooth connection and Bluetooth compatible mouse/keyboard, the OQO can function as a full fledged PC without any wires actually connected to it.
Look for more information on this nifty little UPC in the coming days.