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NASA's High-Res 'Blue Marble' Image is Sharpest Ever


U.S. space agency NASA has released the highest-resolution images ever taken of Earth, capturing in a single view everything from vast deserts to swirling weather systems to polar icecaps.


The images, one of East Africa and Asia, and the other of North and Central America, are eye-popping.

Not since 1972, when the Apollo 17 astronauts snapped the first famous "Blue Marble" photo, has an image of Earth from space created such buzz. NASA recently posted the images on the photo-sharing site Flickr, where they've gone viral.


Data for the images was beamed down from the mini-van-sized Suomi NPP satellite, which is whipping around the planet in a polar orbit once every 102 minutes at an altitude of 512 miles. That's not tree-top level, but for a satellite it's considered low and fast. Telecommunications satellites, typically parked in geostationary orbits, look down from a lofty 22,236 miles. The Apollo shot was snagged from 28,000 miles away.




NASA Goddard Space Flight Center scientist Norman Kuring, who created the images, said that he did his data crunching on a custom-built 64-bit Linux desktop system powered by an Intel Core 2 Quad CPU. "It's just a grey box by my desk," he said.


Kuring says his Intel-based machine began chewing through the tens of gigabytes of raw satellite data for each image when he went home to eat dinner. About 4 hours later the job was done.


Using GIMP and other open-source image processing software, Kuring used his system to stitch together multiple bands of color and infrared data from satellite images shot during 6 separate Earth orbits. The result is an utterly seamless mosaic of Earth, floating in the black void of space.


Gaze down at the Nile, snaking north toward the Mediterranean, the green jungles belting equatorial Africa, the Indian subcontinent with Sri Lanka, swaddled in clouds off its southern tip. That image was taken less than 3 weeks ago.


NASA officials say more images may be on the way.


The latest NASA "Blue Marble" images have struck a deep chord with earth inhabitants everywhere. The Americas image has now been viewed 3.5 million times, a new record for a single shot on Flickr.


Officials at NASA have been flooded with press inquiries. As Kuring told Wired, "My guess is that people know that this is the only place we have to live. When they see an image showing these beautiful blues and greens, it speaks to them. This is our home."



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IFP Contributor

What's an Ultrabook?

Posted by IFP Contributor Feb 6, 2012

The Sleek Laptops are Now Reaching Store Shelves, but What do Retailers and Consumers Know About Them?


ultrabookretail.JPGUltrabooks from Samsung, Asus, Toshiba and other OEMs are now on store shelves. (Flickr photo)

In the wake of the on-going buzz around Ultrabooks, we went looking for the new category of laptop computers in the Sacramento, Calif. area. Visiting retail stores where computers are sold, we asked sales associates to show what they had to offer. Despite all the news and attention Ultrabooks got at the recent International Consumer Electronics Show, we found mixed results in terms of knowledge and awareness:


"Ultrabook. That's a new term for me," said Westin at the Staples in Citrus Heights. "I don't think we have any. [They didn't.] If you want a whiz-bang-fizz laptop I'd go with this HP Pavilion dv7."


Standing in front of an end-cap display featuring the Samsung Series 9, Asus Zenbook and Toshiba Portege Z835, Scott at the Best Buy in Folsom said, "I really like these. Intel has guidelines that have to be met for an Ultrabook to be an Ultrabook. Ultrabooks have mobility, speed and turn on in about 18 seconds."


"We have these," said Jon, pointing out five Ultrabook systems at the Fry's Electronics in Roseville. "If you want mobility and power, the Ultrabook is the way to go," he said before walking through features of the Acer Aspire S3, Asus Zenbook, HP Folio 13, Lenovo Ideapad U300s and Sony Vaio Z series.


Office Max in Natomas had no Ultrabooks among six notebooks on display, but Claudia, who admitted she didn't know what Ultrabooks were, offered to look on the online catalog and found one, the Toshiba Portege Z835. "I checked availability and there's not one available anywhere," she said.


Staples in Roseville had one Ultrabook in the store, the Acer Aspire S3, and Ernest was limited to citing only what was written on the manufacturer's display.


Also with a single Ultrabook was Office Depot in Foothill Farms. Brandon said about the Asus Zenbook UX31E on display, "It's small, great for gaming."


Haylee at the Staples in Folsom said she had never heard of "Ultrabook." The store had zero Ultrabooks on display.


"Ultrabooks, yes," said Nicholas at the Fry's Electronics in Sacramento. "We have these four from Toshiba, Acer, Asus and HP. You'll find that they're lighter, have better battery life and I really like that they have solid-state drives." The store carried three of the same models -- Acer Aspire S3, Asus Zenbook and HP Folio 13 -- as its sister store in Roseville, didn't have the Sony Vaio Z series, but did have the Toshiba Portege on display.


To be fair, Intel's Ultrabook definition may not be widely known as the first systems went to market in the October-November timeframe, with more expected later this year. For the record, an Ultrabook is defined as a security-enabled mobile device with a thin and light design that's less than 21 millimeters thick with ultra-fast startup and extended battery life of 5 to 8 hours.


ultrabookheld.JPGUltrabooks must be less than 21mm thick and have extended battery life of 5 to 8 hours. (Flickr photo)

Intel acknowledges that widespread awareness of the Ultrabook among retailers at this early stage may not be strong.


"It will probably be hit-and-miss at retailers until [Ultrabooks] start to get critical mass on shelves," said Brian Fravel, the director of brand strategy at Intel.


Sales associates where Ultrabooks are presently sold should know the basic selling points, according to Jeffrey Maguire, CEO of Pulse LTD, an Ohio-based consulting firm that works with such clients as Best Buy and Intel to help drive consumer experiences through the retail workforce.


For Best Buy's part, the company has been priming its associates since fall, according to Charlie Feidt, category sales manager for Best Buy.


"We started providing information about this new category and its benefits to customers well before Ultrabooks went on sale in-store," he said. "We've teased it through our internal news channels since November and provided extensive online training. We've had a couple of live national conference calls with field leaders and store employees."


As for a computer salesperson who still regards "Ultrabook" as a foreign word, Feidt had this to say:


"I would be disappointed if a sales associate at a store carrying laptops wasn't at least familiar with the term 'Ultrabook'," he said. "That name has been sort of branded over the past few months so they should at least know it's in the thin-and-light category. Just based on all the reports out of CES they should have heard of it."


And what about consumers? What level of brand recognition should they have several months after Ultrabooks debuted in the marketplace? Intel's Fravel said he wouldn't expect more than half of "average people on the street" to have heard of Ultrabooks within the first year of the category's availability.


That may change starting this spring when Intel is scheduled to launch an aggressive marketing campaign for Ultrabooks. At present, Fravel's forecast is in line with the results of a random survey of Sacramento, Calif. area shoppers, albeit taken after only a few months of the new laptop category arriving in retail. Less than a quarter of those asked had heard of Ultrabook.


Consumer awareness is expected to rise as more shelf space is given to Ultrabooks.


"With Christmas inventory just about out, we should see more Ultrabooks in retail in the coming months, which will mean RSPs [retail salespeople] will need to be more up to speed," Fravel said.


The marketing campaign Intel will launch in April, called "A New Era of Computing," may help get customers interested in Ultrabooks in the first place.


"There definitely will be a lot of media in Q2 through Q4," Fravel said, "so if people look for Ultrabook they'll see it."


The TV, print and outdoor ads and online and in-store retail components work both ways, according to Maguire of Pulse.


"Obviously, retail associates are also consumers and come into contact with the totality of the marketing push," he said. "I would expect a very high level of awareness in the associate population, which will translate directly to shoppers on retail sales floors."



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China is the World's Largest Mobile Market with Almost 1 Billion Mobile Internet Users


As we enter the Year of the Dragon, which began Monday with the Chinese New Year, the huge China mobile market is growing at breakneck speed. In 2011, mobile connections increased almost 17 percent and soon will top 1 billion.


Drawn by the both the sheer size of the opportunity and the rapid growth trajectory, mobile handset makers are introducing new phones in an effort to grab a share of the market. This infographic presents the numbers that have major vendors targeting China mobile users in general and smartphone users in particular.


ChinaMobileMarketInfographic_1000x750.jpgData sources: IDC and CNNIC



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Tens of Thousands of Energy-Efficient Servers Handle the Deluge of Data Generated by More Than 800 Million Users


Call it the heart of Facebook. Take an unusual peek inside one of the world's largest data centers, Facebook's monster server farm that opened in April 2011 in the remote desert town of Prineville, Ore., 150 miles east of Portland.


A torrent of data from Facebook's 800 million-plus customers worldwide flows through the servers inside this critical piece of the world's computing infrastructure. And like Facebook itself, the place is expanding like crazy.




Like kids in a candy shop: Facebook invited a team from Intel's server group to take an inside look at Facebook's first built-from-scratch data center. (Facebook had previously leased space from others.) For 18 months, Intel engineers worked with Facebook to design super-efficient custom server board designs for the new facility.


"The collaborative effort pushed Intel to deliver technology for greater efficiency, which will ultimately benefit … data centers across the globe," said Jason Waxman, a general manager of Intel's Data Center Group.




Like! Facebook engineer Joshua Crass holds up a server board he and his team installed at the new data center. The exact number of dual-socket boards is proprietary, but it's "many  tens of thousands."


Facebook has another center under construction in North Carolina and has announced plans for a second data center building on the 127-acre Prineville campus. The company has also started construction on a new facility in Lulea, Sweden, that will be powered primarily by renewable energy sources.




Intel's Ray Sardo worked closely with engineers at Facebook to help custom design the server boards and server racks that arrived in Prineville by the truckload every day as the data center was starting up.


"This is the future of data centers," Ray said, adding that a key reason is the efficiency of Intel processors. "There's no need for expensive raised floors to accommodate sophisticated cross-ventilation systems," he said as an example. "Build a large retail box-store kind of building with a concrete pad and you're good to go."


For Facebook, energy efficiency and operational efficiency are extremely important. An Intel server unloaded from a truck can be online within just a few hours. If there happens to be any issues later, Facebook engineers can swap in a new motherboard in just 8 minutes. And they can replace a memory stick in precisely 38 seconds.




Inside Facebook's Prineville data center, you can literally feel the energy efficiency of the processors with your hands. Intel's Sven Haugan (right) and Ritchie Rice are standing inside what is sometimes called the "hot aisle" of a server room -- the back of the racks where fans vent warm (or even hot) air from inside each server.


Facebook officials estimate that by using energy-efficient processors -- and by adopting a variety of other energy-conservation steps -- this data center uses 38 percent less energy than its leased facilities.




Facebook's Prineville data center covers a sprawling 150,000 square feet, and is projected to double in size to 300,000 square feet -- big enough to house five American football fields.



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Pay-As-You-Go Datacenter Processing Power Creates Opportunity for Smaller Business


CloudAnimation01.jpgOrigami Animation
"To make things move like paper ... is a big challenge. And it required lots of computer crunching power to render graphic images into motion." -- J. Walton (Flickr photo)

While cloud computing may be nothing more than pie in the sky to some, a smaller creative agency in Berkeley, Calif., believes it is driving a real renaissance in digital arts.


John McNeil Studio recently began using on-demand datacenter processing power to help it make computer-generated animations. The agency discovered that it could create high-quality animations in less time at a reasonable price if it offloaded the rendering process to a cloud computing service.


"I could never compete or be able to deliver something at the level of a Pixar or a Disney, given what I have at my disposal inside the walls of the studio," said John McNeil, the chief creative officer and founder of the digital arts and communication company.


"But if I factor in the cloud, all of a sudden I can go there," he said. "And then the limitations of whether or not I can deliver something great will be on my own talent and the talent of the people that are part of the studio."


In September, John McNeil Studio was asked to create an immersive, 3-D animation using origami art to illustrate how a laptop unleashes human creativity. J. Walton, co-director of image and motion at McNeil, knew that the studio's eight MacBook Pros wouldn't allow it to meet the 2-month deadline.


"To make things move like paper, to model characters in 3-D that look like they could've been made from paper and then have the whole thing come together in a way that's natural and tells a story is a big challenge," said Walton. "And it required lots of computer-crunching power to render graphic images into motion."


The need for compute horsepower led Walton and co-director Brandon Kuchta to try Amazon's EC2, or Elastic Compute Cloud. The Amazon service allowed the McNeil team to access the processing power of hundreds of computers to simultaneously render several phases of the animation project and dial up or down the amount of processing power and storage space used for each phase.

CloudAnimation02.jpg"Cloud computing is the first truly democratic, accessible technology that potentially gives everyone a supercomputer ... it's a game changer." -- John McNeil (Flickr photo)


"With Amazon, it's pay as you go, so we can fire up 300 machines at once," said Kuchta. "If we needed them just for a few hours, that's all we would pay for and then we would spin them down until we needed them again."


In contrast, the upfront cost of building an in-house render farm can seem astronomical. "With just eight machines, you could be looking at $50,000," said Kuchta. With only four big projects a year, he said that kind of investment might not be fully utilized.


"The cloud helped us finish in a timely manner," said Walton. "We had 9,000 hours of rendering that had to take place. On one machine, that takes a year and yet we had a week to do the rendering phase of this particular project. If we were to try and render this project on our internal render farm, we're talking more like 6 weeks to render everything."


"We now realize that we have a big behemoth behind us that can render just about anything we throw at it," said Walton. "We don't have to lower quality or spend so much time fine tuning how long something is going to render; we actually can just get it going and move on to the next scene."


From Big to Tiny Screens and in Between


"We're seeing more and more artistic expressions that are borne out of the technology," said McNeil. "There's a much closer relationship between how you're creating the art at the onset and how it's going to be deployed digitally as an interactive program."


Rebecca Lieb, a digital advertising and media analyst at Altimeter, isn't seeing a rise in demand for high- production animations by advertisers. "End users don't have the latest browser or hardware required to play cutting-edge experiences," she said. But she says that Immersive Lab's interactive retail billboard, Intel's Museum of Me and even Burger King's Subservient Chicken are just a few examples of companies creating engaging digital experiences, which are often designed for TV or the Internet, and sometimes both.

CloudAnimation03.jpg"With Amazon, it's pay as you go, so we can fire up 300 machines at once. If we needed them just for a few hours, that's all we would pay for." -- Brandon Kuchta (Flickr photo)


Hype or Game Changer


According to the Cisco Cloud Index, there will be 12 times more cloud computing traffic processed inside datacenters by 2015 compared with the amount of traffic in 2010. Yet Jon Peddie, a technology analyst and president of JPR research, doesn't see cloud services as a major disruptor to the digital arts industry. Rather, he says it has more to do with Moore's Law, which generally states that computing performance continues to increase over time while the cost drops.


"Using servers on a demand basis is certainly more economical than having your own rendering farm and the incumbent support and overhead associated with it," Peddie said. "But there is no free lunch," he warned. "All potentially faster and cheaper rendering does is move the problem to another part of the pipeline."


Peddie points to Blinn's Law, which states that as technology advances, rendering time remains constant because rather than using improvements in hardware to save time, artists tend to employ it to render more complex graphics. The axiom is named for Jim Blinn, a computer scientist who created animations for NASA's Voyager project and worked on the Carl Sagan "Cosmos" documentaries.


"So the 'cloud' raises the quality level, and may reduce some of the overhead and costs for smaller firms, but not much else changes."


McNeil says that the business model for his studio simply would not work without affordable technologies like cloud clouding, and the common, almost consumer-level software and hardware available today.


"This allows me to have designers working next to motion graphics people, working next to people doing web development, working next to people finishing video, working next to people editing video, working next to people writing scripts," McNeil said. "And that creates a really interesting opportunity for us."




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A Look Inside the Social Cockpit Intel is Using to Discover and Analyze What's Getting the Most Buzz on Twitter, Blogs, Facebook and YouTube




The online heartbeat of the Consumer Electronics Show is being monitored in real time by a team of data analysts and algorithm coders.


In a small private room above Intel's booth on the trade show floor, members of the company's social media team and a small group from WCG, a Texas-based communications agency, are monitoring the mass of conversations happening around CES. They are using a proprietary Adobe Air-based desktop application to collect and make sense of the buzz generated online by people either attending or following CES on blogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

SocialDashboard03.JPGSocial media activity about CES shared in Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is tracked, then analyzed hour-by-hour using software created by Texas-based firm WCG. (Flickr photo)


The goal: measure the pulse and meaningful movements of the social Web, something akin to how the Bloomberg Terminal gives minute-by-minute information about stock markets and financial news.


"We can see live 'the share of voice' for companies like Apple, Google, Intel, HP and Microsoft and see how it changes during news announcements or keynotes," said Aaron Strout, a group director at WCG.


Strout's team is tracking much more than just CES Twitter hashtags. They have crafted a complete "social cockpit" based on the agency's proprietary search and analytic software that tracks and collects data such as Facebook Newsfeed posts and Likes, Tweets that mention leading tech brands, Fan Page and Twitter follower growth, popularity of YouTube videos as well as posts from top technology blogs and forums. The cockpit serves as a constantly updating dashboard that fills several large monitors so the teams can track in real time who is getting share of voice, and generally, what people are saying and about what products and what companies.

SocialDashboard02.JPGThe so-called "social cockpit," a social dashboard, displays online buzz about companies making Ultrabooks, a hot new item at CES this year.  (Flickr photo)


"We can identify who is talking online about a company or a product at CES," said Strout. "Are they from the general public? Are they influencers? Are they company representatives? And from this we look at what company and product they're talking about and what hashtags they are using."


"There seems to still be high expectation around tablets," said Strout about 6 hours into the first official day of CES. "But we're seeing more mentions of mobile in general and about Android specifically and Ultrabooks, shifting the weight away from the specific topic of tablets."


Strout says he's taking an even deeper dive into buzz around Ultrabooks to see how CES is impacting a handful of Ultrabook makers. Acer, Asus, Lenovo and Toshiba were all showing up as of late Tuesday afternoon before Dell announced its new XPS13 Ultrabook during [Intel President and CEO] Paul Otellini's keynote later that day.


Acknowledging that others may be using competitive monitoring technology such as Radian6, Strout still believes his team is collecting and presenting analyses swiftly and perhaps more actionable than anyone else at CES.


"The way of the future is to collect data then apply logic and algorithms to create an easily digestible story that you can act upon," he said.





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The Android Phone Features a High-Resolution 4.03-Inch LCD Screen; Battery Life Is Expected to Be up to 8 Hours for 3G Voice Calls



Intel's Smartphone Reference design was getting a lot of attention at CES and may have finally put Intel firmly in the phone game.

Intel_Smartphone_Reference_Design_angle.jpgThe Intel Smartphone Reference Design was developed to help reduce development time and costs for phone OEMs and carriers. (Flickr photo)


The idea behind the reference design is to speed development time for phone manufacturers that, in turn, can focus on adding additional features and software. The phone features a high-resolution 4.03-inch LCD screen and is running Android Gingerbread OS on the company's Medfield phone platform. A company representative said versions of the phone are also running Ice Cream Sandwich but none were being shown publicly at CES.


Battery life on the reference phone, according to Intel, is expected to be up to 8 hours for a standard 3G voice call with standby power lasting up to 14 days. The phone also features a paparazzi-like "burst mode" that allows users to fire off 15 photos (from either one of two cameras on board) in about a second with 8-megapixel resolution.


Mike Bell, general manager of Intel's Mobile and Communications Group, joined Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini onstage at the CES keynote Tuesday afternoon to show the phone more broadly, but it was already getting the lion's share of attention earlier in the day at Intel's booth at the Las Vegas Convention Center.


Otellini announced two new customers (Lenovo and Motorola) but it wasn't clear whether either of these customers would be using the reference design as part of their go-to-market strategy. At a Credit Suisse conference last month, Otellini did say customers would be using the "guts" of the reference design in phones coming out later this year.





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Justin Bieber, Snooki, Eliza Dushku and 50 Cent Are Among the Household Names and Cult Favorites That Will Make the Scene at the Consumer Electronics Show



With a galaxy of stars from all walks of entertainment committed to appear at the International Consumer Electronics Show, the giant Las Vegas trade event could seem more like a Hollywood awards show than a worldwide showcase of gadgets and gizmos.


On what could be perceived as one long 1.8 million-square-foot red carpet, CES once again will be a "Who's Who" of celebritydom headlined by A-listers who historically make unannounced cameos during keynotes at the invitation of major corporations. Past years have seen Yahoo welcome Tom Cruise, Intel salute Robert Redford and Sony delighting the audience with Tom Hanks, to name a recent few.

justinbieber.jpgCanadian pop phenom Justin Bieber will appear at CES on behalf of TOSY Robotics, which is unveiling an "entertainment robot." (Flickr photo)

Sports legends are also getting in on the annual act, signed on to sign autographs for those among the expected 140,000 attendees with patience to stand in lines and toil for a quality celebrity sighting.


Arguably the biggest name announced is Canadian pop phenom Justin Bieber, who will stump for Vietnamese firm TOSY Robotics, which is rolling out an "entertainment robot."


More marketing-driven music will be made by rapper 50 Cent on behalf of SMS Audio, his own brand of headphones and accessories. Not to be outdone, rapper-actor LL Cool J is mashing up with Dolby Laboratories to promote Boomdizzle, a record label and social networking website he founded. Enduring rock band Chicago will no doubt draw a different crowd for Monster at its annual Retailer Awards and Concert. Popular DJ Tiesto will appear at Intel's booth and perform at a concert to promote a Web series that debuts later this month on his YouTube channel.

snooki.jpgNicole Polizzi, aka "Snooki" of "Jersey Shore" will be at CES to promote Zeikos USA's new line of iHip audio accessories. (Flickr photo)


TV stars and stars made on TV also will abound. Nicole Polizzi, aka "Snooki" of "Jersey Shore" fame, will promote Zeikos USA's new line of iHip audio accessories. Miss America 2011, Teresa Scanlan, will saunter on the show floor to remind folks that her successor will be crowned live on ABC TV on Jan. 14, not uncoincidentally in Las Vegas.


Another reigning titleholder, 2011 "Project Runway" winner Anya Ayoung-Chee, will discuss at Intel's booth how technology plays an important role in her life as a fashion designer. Former Miss America host and Emmy Award-winning talk show host Wayne Brady will join "Heroes" star Greg Grunberg for OnStar's Tweet House sessions, the official social media track for CES.

elizadushku.jpgEliza Dushku from "Dollhouse" and "Angel" will contribute to Spike TV's "CES All Access Live" broadcast coverage and host the network's private CES party. (Flickr photo)


As ambassador of CES' Entertainment Matters program, geared to the film, TV and digital communities, actress Eliza Dushku from "Dollhouse" and "Angel" will contribute to Spike TV's "CES All Access Live" broadcast coverage and host the network's private CES party.


It will be a wide world of sports at CES with such retired greats as Dennis Rodman. The provocative NBA Hall of Famer will help Paltalk launch its FireTalk calling and texting product. Rodman's former Los Angeles Laker teammates Robert Horry and John Salley will make appearances at Haier America's booth. Retired New York Giants linebacker Carl Banks will be at the iHip booth and Alistair Overeem, current Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder, will add brawn to Qualcomm's space.


Others scheduled to appear at CES include celebrity chef Allison Fishman; TV fitness guru Jillian Michaels; hip-hop dance troupe Jabbawockeez; three directors of James Bond films and former "Bond Girls" Olga Kurylenko ("Quantum of Solace") and Caterina Murino ("Casino Royale"); and Gary Dell'Abate and Jon Hein from SiriusXM Radio's Howard Stern channels.


And, oh yeah, there might also be Windows 8 tablets, Ultrabooks, quad-core smartphones and new Android handsets. Good luck to these upcoming tech stars on not being upstaged at a consumer electronics show.



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The Nikiski's See-Through Touchpad with a Translucent Screen Allows Users to See Status Updates, News Feeds, Messages and Calendar Items without Opening the Lid



Intel showed off an "Ivy Bridge" laptop concept that featured a large see-through touchpad with a translucent screen. The demo product created quite a stir at the company's Ultrabook press conference Monday at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.


That's right, a concept laptop that wasn't even an Ultrabook almost stole the Ultrabook show.


Intel software engineer Peter Adamson said the concept system, codenamed "Nikiski" with the second "k" reversed, was really designed to show "a usage model that we think people might use" and was clearly designed to show potential Ultrabook usages as well.

NikiskiConceptLaptop01.JPGThe "Nikiski" concept laptop has a large touchpad that runs the length of the keypad. Translucency allows it to serve as a see-through window when the lid is closed. (Flickr photo)


The laptop was running Intel's "Chief River" platform using the next-generation Intel Core processors coming later this year. It featured a relatively standard (by Ultrabook standards) 20mm chassis, but judging by the crowds that rushed the stage after the press conference to get a closer look, the idea might be a winner. Ivy Bridge processors will play a key role in Ultrabooks this year, as the company seeks further enhancements in power efficiency and performance.


The "Nikiski" system featured a large touchpad that runs the length of the keypad. Translucency allows it to serve as a see-through window when the lid was closed. When open, the touchpad will recognize the difference between finger-tip scrolling and the palm of your hand resting on it while typing. When closed, a see- through window/tablet concept allows you to view news feeds, messages and calendar items without opening the lid.


The demo system was running Windows 7, but when closed the see-thru window had a very familiar tile-based user interface reminiscent of the Windows 8 Metro look and feel. Adamson said that was a coincidence; the tiles had been demonstrated before Microsoft showed its new Metro UI. The company had only recently begun to show it off more broadly to customers, however, and Adamson said he was anxious to show it to more OEMs. Oh yeah, and Nikiski? "I think it's the name of a valley in North Korea but don't hold me to that," said Adamson, who added, "we're not always that good on our geographic naming."



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The Acclaimed Physicist and Author of "A Brief History of Time" Uses a Custom-Built PC That's Hand Delivered and Set Up for His Use


For a man who was diagnosed with a devastating motor neuron disease at age 21 and given just 3 years to live, brilliant British scientist Stephen Hawking, who celebrated his 70th birthday Sunday, continues to amaze.


Despite his severe physical disabilities, the University of Cambridge professor has advanced the theories of physics and cosmology, including the theoretical prediction that black holes should emit radiation.


His 1988 bestseller, "A Brief History of Time," sold 9 million copies and made him one of the world's most famous and popular scientists (complete with a guest role on "The Simpsons" TV show).


Intel application engineer Travis Bonifield has been working closely with Hawking to communicate with the world for a decade. He's traveled from the United States to England every few years to hand-deliver Hawking a customized PC.


Here, Bonifield talks about the unique project, the technology that powers the customized system and how Intel co-founder Gordon Moore got Hawking to switch from AMD to Intel.


Hawking01.JPG Travis Bonifield (from left to right), Rob Weatherly, an Intel employee who provides IT support for Hawking, Sam Blackburn, graduate assistant for Hawking, and Stephen Hawking. (Flickr photo)


How did you come to be the guy who helps Stephen Hawking?


Another engineer who was already working on this project transitioned it over to me back in 2001, and I've been running with it ever since. It's not my full-time job. I'm an application engineer supporting mobile and desktop chipsets.


What technology does Stephen use?


The computer is made up of three parts: a Lenovo X220 tablet PC, a custom black box containing various peripherals and the hardware voice itself. The computer features an Intel Core i7 processor along with a forward-facing webcam, which Stephen uses to place phone calls using Skype.


Underneath the wheelchair is the black box, which contains an audio amplifier, voltage regulators and a USB hardware key that receives the input from the IR sensor on Stephen's eyeglasses. The hardware voice synthesizer sits in another black box on the back of the chair and receives commands from the computer via a USB-based serial port.


How does Stephen control what comes out of his voice synthesizer?


When I first met Stephen, he still had some use in his thumbs. In fact, he'd still attempt to drive his own wheelchair. He pinned me against the wall once [laughs]. He had basically a clicker, a binary switch that he held in his hand. He'd press it with his thumb to highlight the words or commands on the computer screen. He was typing at about one word per minute when I first met him. He was actually pretty snappy with it.


Over time the nerve that allowed him to move his thumbs degraded, and he had to find another way to communicate. They originally talked about using one of his pectoral muscles and putting a sensor there. He wasn't too thrilled with that idea.


What he's got now is an infrared sensor hanging off of his glasses. It basically detects the changes in light as he twitches his cheek. They call it the "cheek switch."


Could technology help speed up his word output?


Stephen sent a letter to [Intel co-founder] Gordon Moore several months ago in which he said, "My speech input is very, very slow these days. Is there any way Intel could help?"


Since that time, we've gotten a couple of groups at Intel involved with looking at what can be done to help Stephen. This is still very early on. XTL, the Experience Technology Lab, is looking at facial recognition software to try to come up with some sort of a new input method for Stephen that would be quicker than what he's currently using.


Did Intel's involvement result directly from conversations between Gordon Moore and Stephen Hawking?


Stephen and Gordon met at a conference around 1997. Gordon noted that Stephen was using an AMD machine. Gordon asked Stephen, "Would you like to use an Intel computer moving forward? We'd be happy to build that for you and support it."


Stephen said yes, and we've been building these custom PCs for him ever since. We've done an average of one every 2 years or so.


Travis01.jpgIntel engineer Travis Bonifield holds a replica of the custom PC he recently created for Stephen Hawking. (Flickr photo)

When you take it to Stephen, do you fly commercial holding the customized PC on your lap?


I actually take two systems out to Stephen [one is a backup]. One year I packed them in cases, checked them in as luggage and the airlines lost them for three days. The year after that I thought I'd ship them ahead of time. They got held up in customs for 3 days. This time I got lucky. My luggage showed up with me [laughs].


Was this year's deployment a success?


The interesting thing around this time is all the hardware work was finished within a few hours on the first day. It's configuring all the software that really took a long time. I think that's due to some customizations that Stephen's assistant has made in recent years.


This is also the fastest computer we've ever deployed to Stephen. We found out that when you turn on the computer, it's supposed to basically come up with all his applications and programs and his Words+ speech synthesizer software right from the get-go. But what we were finding out is that it would start all those applications so fast that it didn't have time to initialize the hardware devices yet.


So his voice application would be started, but the security key for the voice application wouldn't be initialized yet. We actually had to put some startup delays in and make it wait 5 seconds so that the hardware devices could finish being initialized by the time the CPU started running all those applications.



Who provides tech support if his computer has problems?


Robert Weatherly in the Intel Swindon [U.K.] office. He's the feet on the ground, a couple hours' drive away.


What does your family think about you working with Stephen Hawking?


My wife's stepmother is a teacher. She shares what I'm doing with her middle school students [laughs]. Personally, it's interesting to build something that no one else is building. I debug things for a living and it's a job I enjoy.



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Being Beside Big Brands Can Mean Added Attention for Smaller Exhibitors, but Trade Show Veterans Know It Can Yield Mixed Results



How does a "little fish" exhibitor attract attention in the enormous pond that is the gigantic International Consumer Electronics Show?


It's a challenge for companies of more modest stature. But when smaller trade show booths are placed nearby well-known brands that command thousands of square feet of valuable Las Vegas real estate it's a Catch 22 situation -- the same household names that dwarf the smaller exhibitors can also bring in a bonanza of business.


Looking to capitalize on the halo effect of being neighbors with Sony, one of the largest CES exhibitors at the Las Vegas Convention Center, is Se-Kure Controls, a security solutions provider that has no problem playing David to someone else's Goliath.


"When you're right next to a monster trade show booth you're going to get some exposure just by fact that so many people come to visit the larger players in the industry," said Mike Briggs, an executive vice president with the Illinois-based manufacturer. "You can't help but have someone notice your existence."


That's no easy task for a 150-employee company vying for attention next to Sony, which last year wowed passersby with a 90-foot-wide, HD 3-D LED display and the bullet-riddled Black Beauty car from the "Green Hornet" movie.


"The question is how do we make it appealing for people to come across the aisle?" said Briggs, who will be conducting business in a 20x40 space. "That's a challenge with attendees not coming by specifically to see anti-shoplifting devices. We hope that people who come to Sony will peek across the aisle."

CESsmallvendor_01.jpgModels (or "booth babes") intended to rev up the engines of attendees are commonplace among car audio exhibitors. (Flickr photo)


As added bait, Se-Kure Controls isn't going with provocatively attired ladies -- that's for the car audio section in another exhibit hall -- but instead giving away convex mirrors with "Welcome to Las Vegas" printed on them to anyone who stops by and registers on its website. The company understands that with a consumer technology show like CES the freebie won't always fall in the hands of security purchase decision makers; but plans to use more targeted promotions expected at the other nine trade shows on Se-Kure Controls' 2012 calendar, all dedicated to retail, hardware and security.


Near Canon, Monster and Samsung Electronics, another small exhibitor understands the need for a giveaway to lure attendees from its grander next-door neighbors, but Hatzlachh Supply may not know what that is until the first day of the show.


"It might depend on how the owners wake up in the morning," said Boaz Nagar, IT director of the New York-based home electronics manufacturer. "We always have something."


Thirty-plus years of CES exhibiting experience tell the manufacturer of Broksonic TVs that gimmicks such as prize draws help increase foot traffic, but they also jack up expenses and work only to a certain extent.


"We've gone as small as giving away pens and key chains and as large as having people win TVs and VCRs, but there's no guarantee of a return on investment," Nagar said. "One of the reasons is that being next to a giant isn't always good. [It] depends on what they're selling. If the giants are selling the same thing as you are, it's not good."


Samsung's 25,000-square-foot booth is on one side of Hatzlachh and has some overlap of product lines, but that's not the case with Casio and its 10,000 square feet on the other side.


"Overall, I prefer being next to the giants," said Nagar, whose company's 30x40-foot booth last year was in the shadow of not only Samsung and Casio, but Sharp Electronics as well.


Moving several feet closer to a hall entrance should improve visibility for Hatzlachh's 1,200-square-foot booth this year, Nagar said, noting that the new location reduces the chance of his company's booth being throttled by large walls of a major exhibitor. "That," he said, "can be a big, big problem."


Designed with no barricade-type walls other than on the backside, Intel's 10,000-square-foot booth will not be a problem for any of its neighbors. Its only direct neighbors, in fact, are Microsoft and Dolby Laboratories, which sport large digs.


Still, Harald Wilhelm of the Intel's corporate events group does have empathy for the smallest players on the vast field.


"It's not a given that you benefit positively from being next to a big fish," he said. "It really depends on where you are located next to that big fish and who the big fish is. It doesn't help if you are on the back wall of another company's live stage where nobody has a tendency to go, nor does it necessarily help you to market your product if the big guys have noisy activity 8 hours a day."

CESsmallvendor_02.jpgLive music is a favorite attention-getter for exhibitors at CES.(Flickr photo)


The promise of a steady hullabaloo from two NBA legends and a celebrity chef next door has Toronto-based Curtis International experiencing mixed emotions leading into CES. The home electronics manufacturer and distributor said it welcomes the added traffic retired NBA stars Robert Horry and John Salley and celebrity chef Allison Fishman may attract across the aisle at the Haier America booth, but not the company isn't sure about the type of attendee they will draw.


"It's a business show for us so we like to attract business decision makers," said Alex Herzog, a sales manager with Curtis. "A couple of years ago we were next to Lady Gaga [at the Polaroid booth] and it didn't bring in purchasers and other decision makers from each retail organization."


Herzog does see a silver lining to the expected hordes that will visit the Haier booth to watch cooking demonstrations and seek autographs from sports legends.


"The upside is we're able to draw additional attendees and connect with them from the ground up," he said. "Lady Gaga attracted people walking the show for enjoyment, but it was still valuable to talk to them. I think it will be the same for those coming to see the celebrity chef. At the very least we could get some samples."



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Wireless Display Connection Technology Lets People Connect a Laptop to a TV without a Tangle of Cables



1. What is WiDi?


WiDi, the popular name for Intel Wireless Display, is a display connection technology that allows people to extend their laptop screen to their TV -- no cable required.


Introduced in 2010, Intel WiDi now supports up to 1080p high-def resolution, 5.1 multi-channel audio and HDCP, which means you can now beam DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and movies over the air.


WiDi has drawn praise in media reviews from its launch. Engadget was "bowled over from the start" and PC Magazine called it "the hottest sleeper technology" of 2010. Laptop Magazine included WiDi among its 25 most innovative products of 2010 and Popular Science named it one of the best new computing products of the year.


2. What can I do with WiDi?


WiDi works like an HDMI cable connected to your TV, allowing you to multi-task on the laptop screen while another application or media player runs on the TV screen, except you can keep your laptop on your lap -- no cable. Imagine watching on TV the video you made of your kid's birthday party while telling your friends on Facebook how glad you are that it's over.


While some set-top boxes, game consoles and Blu-ray players offer internet services, they're usually limited to a vendor-chosen subset of services enabled on the device. With WiDi, no such limitation exists. Tour Google Earth, explore massive photo mashups, play the latest pre-beta music service -- if it's on your computer, and you can beam it to your big screen (and big speakers if you have a receiver that takes HDMI).


3. How does WiDi work?


Processor graphics render a second virtual display, which is broadcast via WiFi through a feature in Intel Centrino wireless chipsets called My WiFi. On the TV side, a receiver converts the signal and passes it to the TV. The receiver is available as an add-on adapter and a growing number of multifunction TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes are coming to market with WiDi receiver adapters built in.


The connection between the laptop and the adapter is managed by Intel WiDi software that runs on the laptop -- the wireless driver, graphics driver and wireless display software are available for download from Intel. An additional app called Intel WiDi Widget simplifies the task of configuring the Windows settings to achieve the correct resolution and displays the active window on the TV with a single click.



4. Where can I find WiDi devices?


WiDi is available in more than 100 laptop designs in virtually every major market around the world. Belkin, Netgear, D-Link and other OEMs offer display adapters.


Online, several retailers and OEMs allow you to search for laptops that have "wireless display." Best Buy, for instance, has a page with details about WiDi and dozens of compatible machines.


In stores, look for the Intel WiDi logo.


5. What offerings compete with WiDi?


Imation and Veebeam both sell adapters based on wireless USB that include a base that connects to the TV and a USB dongle for the laptop.


6. What's next for WiDi?


In 2012, look for WiDi to spread beyond laptops to other Intel powered devices. It's already cropping up on all-in-one desktops such as the Dell Inspiron One.


Consumers can expect to see WiDi receiver adapters integrated into selected consumer electronics devices, running as an application on Blu-ray players or even directly on TVs (LG has announced plans to incorporate WiDi into its TVs). And Intel has been supporting the new industry standard for a wireless display protocol called Wi-Fi Display, which will be supported in future versions of WiDi.



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An Inside Look At How the Leader of Intel's Sales and Marketing Group Spends His Day


As head of Intel's sales and marketing, Tom Kilroy believes that "selling" is only a small portion of what his organization accomplishes every day.


While selling products is the end goal, a mind-boggling number of things must occur before a laptop designer decides to use Intel chips or a customer brings home his or her shiny new Ultrabook. As one of the top executives, Kilroy is deeply engaged in the business of Intel, from smartphones to servers. He and his team either own or engage in everything from market forecasting and customer relationships to brainstorming the next ad campaign and chasing design wins with an increasingly diverse set of products.


Kilroy began his career at Intel as a regional sales manager and rose through the ranks to run the Reseller Channel Organization and the Americas Sales and Marketing Organization. He also was co-manager of Intel's largest business, the former Digital Enterprise Group, at a time when Intel was facing stiff competition in servers from AMD several years ago. From there Kilroy took over the reins of sales and marketing in 2009 from Executive Vice President Sean Maloney.


For a glimpse at an average day, follow Kilroy through his day at Intel headquarters in Santa Clara.




10:12 a.m. -- Kilroy and his technical assistant (TA), Brent Young, quickly walk through a presentation for Intel's board of directors the next day. The two men make rapid-fire tweaks and decisions. Young, who was an open source software strategist for 4 years before becoming his TA, characterizes Kilroy as a "non-power-oriented dude," a leader who is strong but even-keeled.




10:38 a.m. -- In front of an audience of employees in Santa Clara, with hundreds more attending via webcast, Kilroy presents a quarterly business update.




11:46 a.m. -- Most of the questions in the business update are about Intel's Ultrabook efforts. "This happens once in a decade," he says. "We had the opportunity with Centrino to change the game -- we need to do that again." He says that unlike Centrino, which took a while to get partners on board, Intel's Ultrabook customers are excited about refreshing the PC. We've been able to turn the idea of an Ultrabook -- which was first publicly mentioned at Computex in May -- into reality in less than 6 months.




12:02 p.m. -- Young and Kilroy discuss their trip to Mexico City as they walk back to the Robert Noyce Building on Intel's Santa Clara campus. World travel is a huge part of his job -- Kilroy usually heads out on an international trip two to three times a quarter to meet with customers, employees, partners and press. This road warrior's secret? "Staying in reasonable shape," he says. "I have always been an early riser and when I can, I try to get a run in before heading to work." He ran four miles this morning -- and was extra-energized from watching his favorite football team, the Chicago Bears, win last night.




12:05 p.m. -- On the way to lunch, Kilroy pauses to shake hands and chat with Intel China Chairman Sean Maloney, who himself ran the Sales and Marketing organization and now heads up Intel's efforts in China. They have a long relationship, dating back to the early 1990s when Kilroy was Intel's regional sales manager in Chicago. Since then, their roles have crisscrossed many times. "Sean is the ultimate role model when it comes to creating a sense of urgency to drive results," says Kilroy. "Over the years I've learned so much from him as a boss, a business partner and a friend."




12:10 p.m. -- In the Intel cafeteria, Kilroy makes his usual lunch -- a simple turkey flatbread sandwich with light mayo, a bag of chips and a Granny Smith apple. He takes his lunch back up to his conference room in the Robert Noyce Building to eat during a meeting with one of his top sales managers.




1:32 p.m. -- Kilroy joins another packed  conference room with other top executives for a briefing on market supply and demand.




2:16 p.m. -- Kilroy considers fun and offbeat ideas for his keynote address at Intel's upcoming sales and marketing conference.




3:05 p.m. -- Kilroy sits down with Phillip Davis from employee communications to talk about the development of the Ultrabook for a story in an internal employee publication. Kilroy meets regularly with members of the external press and often conducts sit-down interviews on each of his international trips to talk about what he's up to and what the business trends are.




3:41 p.m. -- Across a long conference room table, Kilroy and Young lay out printed PowerPoint slides for an upcoming presentation. Starting from the beginning, Kilroy makes adjustments and shuffles slides around. "It's important to always tell a story when you are presenting," he says. "I like being able to lay out the slides, step back and see how the story flows and comes together."




4:31 p.m. -- Kilroy peeks out of the conference room where he takes many of his regular meetings after talking to one of several employees whom he informally mentors. "He likes to grow talent," says Young, who also calls Kilroy his mentor. "He has a real eye for people who can excel and thinks it's important to invest time coaching Intel's future leaders."




5:02 p.m. -- Dadi Perlmutter, executive vice president, Mooly Eden, vice president, and others attend a quarterly meeting with Kilroy designed to review expected demand and revenue in the coming quarters.




7:15 p.m. -- Kilroy meets a customer for dinner at a steakhouse in Palo Alto. He has a regular beat of customer meetings each week and thinks discussions over drinks and a meal are the most valuable. "They tend to be more open and allow for relationship building."




6:30 a.m. -- Barely 8 hours after his customer meeting wrapped up the previous night, Kilroy walks back into the Robert Noyce Building, looking forward to getting some work done before the drumbeat of meetings begins.




7:15 a.m. -- Sitting at his desk on the 5th floor of the Robert Noyce Building, just a few cubes away from President and CEO Paul Otellini, Kilroy goes over his calendar for the day and wades through overnight email.




10:15 a.m. -- Kilroy walks into the Intel board of directors meeting. In these bi-monthly meetings he frequently presents the state of the business.


Kilroy finishes off yet another busy day with a series of meetings: a brainstorm session, a management review committee and a few more coaching one-on-ones. That evening, he heads home to kick back and relax. "This snapshot of time with me captured a diversity of work," he says, "that hopefully conveys why I'm so energized and inspired and really love my job."



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Despite Microsoft's announcement that 2012 will be its last CES, the technology trade show is poised for the biggest turnout in years.


Riding a wave that has seen launches of tablets, Android devices and connected TVs over the past couple of years, the upcoming International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas looks for another booster shot of relevance despite Apple's continued absence and Microsoft's recently announced swan song.



Momentum carried by recent years of increased key announcements and positive trade show numbers may have taken a hit with Microsoft announcing that the 2012 show will be its last as an exhibitor and keynoter. In a blog post, Frank Shaw, Microsoft's corporate communications vice president, wrote that the company's product news milestones "generally don't align" with the January timing of CES.


"As we look at all of the new ways we tell our consumer stories -- from product momentum disclosures, to exciting events like our Big Windows Phone, to a range of consumer connection points like Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft.com and our retail stores -- it feels like the right time to make this transition," Shaw wrote.


Time will tell whether another tech event will benefit from Microsoft pulling out of the show. CES, however, has been on the positive end of another trade show's demise. The collapse of COMDEX in 2004 -- which some industry observers attribute, in part, to IBM abandoning the show in 1997 – laid out the welcome mat for non-traditional companies to make major announcements in Las Vegas each January. A recent example is Ford Motor Co. launching its Ford Focus Electric at the 2011 CES instead of the North American International Auto Show.


COMDEX's fall also opened the door for CES to become the No. 1 trade show in the United States by attendance. CES registration jumped the first 3 years there wasn't a COMDEX, including 2006 when a record 152,203 attended. The economic downturn saw numbers drop until 2010, and in 2011 CES was just 471 registrants shy of again reaching the 150,000 milestone.


By show floor size alone, CES is the world's largest consumer tech show. The 2012 CES trade show will sprawl across 1.8 million square feet, larger than the 1.6 million square feet of space in 2011. That figure, along with 2,700 exhibitors the hosting Consumer Electronics Association said will be at the show, will equal the 2007 event, held 11 months before what economists peg as the start of the most recent global financial crisis.

ballmer2011ces.jpgMicrosoft CEO Steve Ballmer delivers his keynote address at CES 2011, where he provided updates on Kinect for Xbox 360 and Windows Phone, and also previewed several new Windows PC devices coming to market. Microsoft has said the 2012 CES will be its last. (Flickr photo)


Long-time CES attendee Danielle Levitas, an IDC analyst, has seen the show's ups and downs first-hand.


"It felt like CES was about to explode in 2006, when attendance hit astonishing numbers," Levitas said. "Then the global crisis hit and understandably, attendance dropped. But it has rebounded and seems to be going strong."


For the worldwide media and analysts covering CES, the number of attendees and square footage pale in importance compared to the show-and-tell over four busy days. The CEA expects more than 20,000 new products to be launched at the show, which has one veteran product reviewer upbeat.


"A few years ago there was a sentiment that CES was becoming less relevant because of certain companies dropping out and other reasons, but you don't hear that lately," said Steve Kruschen, better known as "Mr. Gadget" to television and radio audiences.


"What's helped is adding new things," said Kruschen, who is about to attend his 29th CES. "I've long been an advocate that the CEA expand in housewares, which I call kitchen electronics, and consumer-type medical equipment. They were missing the boat by not including those types of products for so many years. By doing so they've kept CES more relevant than ever."


As for the 20,000 product launches organizers said will be made at CES, Kruschen said exhibitors can actually help the show maintain its significance by taking a less is more approach.


"From tablets with usability issues, interface issues and other issues to products that don't fill a need or have an audience -- we journalists are constantly amused, and not in a good way, when we ask ourselves, 'Why on Earth did they introduce that at CES?'"


Ironically, the same company that Kruschen cited as doing a good job in that department is also absent from the long scroll of 2012 CES exhibitors.


"Apple focuses its stuff at a time and place of its choosing, only introducing a product when it's ready," he said. "Too bad others don't do the same."

cesrush.jpgAttendees rush into the Central Hall from the Grand Lobby at the 2011 CES, which came 471 registrants shy of reaching 150,000 in attendance for the first time since 2006. (Flickr photo)


Apple, which in the past said that coming up with a dazzling show and mind-blowing new products every January was "unsustainable," may still be the biggest elephant in the room, but it won't be invisible at CES. Apple will be represented by several attendees, according to the CEA, and it will have strong presence at the expanded iLounge pavilion for companies in the business of Apple hardware and accessories.


The CES Effect


Just as CES draws attendees and exhibitors from many walks of commerce, so does the city that has hosted the event since 1978. Las Vegas is expected to be named North America's No. 1 trade show destination for the 18th straight year when Trade Show News Network's 2011 list is announced.


"CES was one of the first to come here on an annual basis, and it's been great to watch it grow along with Las Vegas as a destination," said Jeremy Handel of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.


For the local hospitality scene, CES kicks off the convention season in a big way. MGM Resorts International, whose portfolio includes some of the biggest names on the Strip, said that CES is the highest-grossing trade show for the company annually, even in less than stellar years.


"CES delegates fill our restaurants, shows, retail stores and, of course, our guest rooms, generating nearly 25 percent of our annual room revenue for the month in one week," said Richard Harper, an executive vice president for the company behind
Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, MGM Grand and other major Las Vegas properties.


By the time the last Teamster clocks out, CES 2012 is expected to bring in over $153 million to the Las Vegas area, according to the convention authority, and that doesn't include what attendees will drop in the casinos.


"That's a lot of relevance," Handel said.


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Tablets, Big TVs, Home Automation Technologies, Ultrabooks and Win8 Will Be Buzzworthy, but Analysts Aren't Expecting Any Blockbusters at the Upcoming Consumer Electronics Show



It may be little things with limited sales potential, such as the intelligent Nest digital home thermostat, that will generate the biggest buzz at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).


Technology analysts expect that most new consumer products revealed at the Las Vegas trade show will merely be iterations of things that are already on the market. Despite that outlook, there's hope for innovation in home automation, car technology, Ultrabooks, Win8 and new user experiences (UI).


"We're talking plenty about voice these days because of Siri, and we're talking a lot about gesture because of things like Kinect, but I want to see where UI is going," said Danielle Levitas, vice president of consumer technology at IDC Research."Are we going to see voice integration with remote controls? Are we going to start seeing gesture getting to into the UI experience?"

Danielle-Levitas.jpg"Whether Win 8 is on PC or tablets it's going to be a huge buzz category." -- Danielle Levitas, IDC Research (Flickr photo)

More specifically, Levitas wants to see if there will be any new visual interfaces for connected TVs. "To me, that's where we need to see some significant innovation," she said.


Stepping back, she believes there will be two predominant themes at the 2012 show: connected living room and mobile. "I think where the real innovation is going to be is around home automation and in-car entertainment," she said.


Levitas expects to see news media focus on the latest tablets and large OLED televisions. "The fact of the matter is those two segments are going to be an evolution of where we are today," she said. "The difference this year is that there will be a lot of attention not just around Ultrabooks but Win 8. Whether Win 8 is on PC or tablets it's going to be a huge buzz category."


According to Sara Rottman Epps, a senior research at Forrester Research, several strategists in the computing industry are gearing up for 2012 to be the year of the "Ultrabook" -- new ultrathin and light laptops, often with solid-state drives, such as the Asus Zenbook UX31 and Lenovo IdeaPad U300s.

Mike Feibus.jpg"As we get to the latter half of 2012, Ultrabooks will be making a big push and there will be a lot of innovation in the PC market." -- Mike Feibus, TechKnowledge Strategies (Flickr photo)


"We agree that Ultrabooks' lighter, thinner form will appeal to many consumers," Epps wrote recently at All Things D. According to a Forrester Research survey in September, 21 percent of U.S. online consumers say they're interested in owning one.


Mike Feibus, founder of TechKnowledge Strategies, calls this a "tweener" year for CES.


"In 2011 there was a lot of excitement around smartphones, tablets, the rise of Android and even some 3-D TVs," said Feibus. But he foresees the 2012 show not being as exciting as 2011 and won't have as much to see and talk about as he expects in 2013.


"As we get to the 2013 CES, that's going to be real exciting," he said. "As we get to the latter half of 2012, Ultrabooks will be making a big push and there will be a lot of innovation in the PC market."


Levitas said that people attending CES will see "that a PC can be an "aspirational' product versus just another new PC with a new OS on it."



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