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San Miguel at CES: Gadget geeks and porn stars

By Renay San Miguel
CNN
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Headline News anchor Renay San Miguel is following the events at the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN) -- It's the last day of CES, and only the hardcore are left standing. But enough about the Adult Video News awards. The porn industry began arriving last night in Vegas for the weekend adult video ceremony and all the restaurants, bars, strip clubs and taxi stands soon hit critical mass.

It's truly a volatile mix: The mostly male and very horny CES crowd, with their navy blue blazers, white shirts and khakis...and the porn stars, with their clingy clothes and body parts courtesy of the latest advances in cosmetic technology.

It's no coincidence that these two groups overlap this week in Vegas.

Most of the technological advances you enjoy while surfing the Web -- authenticated credit card payment, streaming video -- as well as those DVD's stacking up on your media shelves, got their start with the adult entertainment industry.

The old Comdex trade show in the '90s almost always overlapped with the Adultdex convention. Megan Miller, editor of PopSci.com, Popular Science Magazine's Web site, predicted that porn would probably impact "HD video in the future...although that's kind of gross."

So you'll have to forgive some of the exhibitors here at the convention center if their booths are somewhat understaffed on CES Day 4. And that could be a problem, because there's still business to be done before racing for the security line at the airport. After all, the CES isn't just a big media showcase for cool gadgets; it's a working convention where giant and start-up tech companies try to make deals.

For a lot of the smaller firms, Las Vegas is their one and only roll of the dice. They have to either get their product in front of a major media outlet, sign with a retailer for shelf space or partner with a bigger company who can take their product and put some more marketing and development muscle behind it.

When I walk across the convention center floor with a photographer, I see the eyes of public relations and marketing professionals traveling down to the "CNN" on the press credentials swinging from my neck, followed by the inevitable, "Renay, I just need five minutes."

If it's a product story that can be easily told for television, or a truly interesting technology, or something that shows the potential to resonate with consumers...they get those five minutes.

Just ask Clint Hughes, vice president of marketing and business development for Data Drive Thru Inc., a company based in Dallas, Texas, with 10 people on the payroll. Their product, the Tornado, helps people shift their data from one computer to another, and does it with an easy-to-use interface: no step-by-interminable-step installations or wizards needed.

The Tornado won the Yahoo!Tech "Last Gadget Standing" award and also made progress with retailers. "It's like being the wild card team going all the way to the Super Bowl," Hughes told me. Forgive me milking the metaphor, but for every marketing or business touchdown, somebody comes up short of the goal line.

That's the risk..and the reward...of high-stakes technology shows in Las Vegas.

And somewhere down the line, if you're lucky, you get to buy a product that helps you in your work or entertains you at home. If that entertainment is for mature audiences only...well, that's up to you.

Engaging the ultimate gamer

January 10, 2007

Whatever thunder Apple's CEO Steve Jobs didn't steal from CES on Tuesday is starting to dissipate on Wednesday. The convention floor is a tad less crowded, but there's still hip-hop music blaring from the booth of EdgeTech, a wireless Internet company that apparently thinks having a live DJ here will increase sales.

As Nelly's "Hot in Herrrre" thumps away, we are getting ready to interview Jonathan Wendel, aka Fatality, computer gamer extraordinare.

His story is amazing. The 25-year-old has become the Michael Jordan/Tony Hawk of gaming and has his own line of gamer-friendly products like a highly responsive computer mouse and keyboard.

He's made over half a million dollars in winnings, and he's been hired to do color commentary for televised gaming coverage. I have it on very good authority that a microprocessor company that wants to make its own gamer-friendly mouse has brought Wendel in for testing.

My source says his reflexes are off the charts -- eyeblink-rapid, fraction-of-an-inch moves that can make the difference between life and death in "Quake III."

Wendel is a charter member of a digital, wireless and upwardly mobile generation that is the true target of most of the companies here at CES. Those companies hope they end up buying the media players, digital cameras and cell phones -- and converged products that contain all three -- in 2007.

It's a generation that is less intimidated by technology. It's hard to know who is the true target audience, however, for a 108-inch television. Sports bars, casinos and brokerages, certainly. Upper-income families with living rooms the size of parking garages, maybe. (Full story)

All I know is that the traffic jam on the convention floor in front of the big TV at the Sharp booth is worthy of the Beltway or Atlanta's Perimeter freeway.

After three days of CES, the trends here aren't just gadgets for the young and deep-pocketed, and large flat-screen TV's. They're also:

  • More, more, more wireless media content, streaming to a variety of small devices including cell phones.
  • The fight over HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray enters Round Two.
  • Cell phones enter a lighter, sleeker, multimedia phase even before Jobs' announcement of the iPhone.
  • GPS technology products become less boxy/clunky, and much more cool.
  • Technology companies large and small still believe putting attractive women at their CES booths will spur their sales to iPod-like heights.
  • Normally, I don't have a problem with that. Just keep the hip-hop music down when we're trying to do live shots, OK?

    Battle of the keynotes

    January 9, 2007

    It is a morning of dueling keynote speeches.

    As I write this, Michael Dell is addressing the crowd here at the Consumer Electronics Show. And that's significant, since the man who helped make PCs a commodity hasn't spoken at a Las Vegas, Nevada, convention of any kind since the glory days of Comdex.

    Expect news of new partnerships and more talk of the PC-as-entertainment-management-device. But in the next state over, in foggy San Francisco, California, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is clearing the air concerning his newest products, and taking early potshots at Microsoft's Zune media player and Windows Vista operating system. (Full story)

    Thanks to the Mac fans who liveblog every Jobs speech as if it were a State of the Union, the press can use them as a wire service. That's how I know that as of 9:30 a.m. PST, Apple has announced that Paramount movies will now be available at iTunes. The online content parade continues.

    Les Moonves may make similar announcements regarding CBS content on your PC when he takes the stage later at CES. Liveblogs also report that Apple TV is the name of the new set-top box Jobs called iTV in September, and that yes, Virginia, there is an iPhone.

    More on that later.

    A quick flashback to my Sunday Bill Gates interview: He was showing me the HP Touchsmart PC, a touch screen media manager that uses Vista and is designed for kitchens and other rooms besides home offices.

    Certain Vista features on the desktop of the PC sure looked like Apple's widgets, the desktop-based applications that Jobs introduced last year.

    Gates' 'digital living room'

    January 8, 2007

    It wouldn't be a Consumer Electronic Show without a Bill Gates keynote speech. And for me, it wouldn't be a CES without a face-to-face interview with Gates.

    Between covering the old Comdex computer trade show in the 1990s and reporting from CES shows and other opportunities as well, I've lost count of the number of times I've been fortunate enough to sit down with the man who helped build Microsoft into a global technology power.

    It's more than 10, I can tell you that. (Watch Gates discuss Microsoft's future with San Miguel)

    The only reason I mention that -- besides blatantly trying to impress you with my tech experience -- is to comment on the changes that have gone on in this industry and with Microsoft.

    Computers got more powerful, not to mention cheaper. The Internet changed the game with applications and consumer uses.

    Software became downloadable and -- thanks to hackers -- dangerous.

    Microsoft got knee-deep into the consumer electronics side of things with its Xbox gaming console and, most recently, its Zune digital media player.

    But this latest chance to quiz Gates highlighted how much things haven't changed. In the late '90s, Gates talked about the "digital living room" and how PCs would be sneaking their way from your home office into other rooms, especially your den/living room.

    The new services and products announced Sunday during Gates' keynote reminded me of those heady days. He talked up computers running Vista, Microsoft's new version of Windows that's available to consumers January 30. And those computers will manage all kind of digital media, including photos, music and downloaded movies.

    Xbox 360 also will allow that, thanks to the new IPTV service announced in November, so suddenly Gates is talking up his video gaming console as "a set-top box."

    That was a pre-emptive shot across the bow at Apple and Steve Jobs, who is set to unveil a wireless set-top box Tuesday at Macworld. The iTV (working title) for Apple will supposedly make it easier to transfer all that downloaded content -- especially, Jobs hopes, all those Disney movies from iTunes -- from your computer to your TV. (Full story)

    What else do you have sitting near your TV? A DVD player, of course.

    One trend you'll be noticing from CES 2007 coverage is all the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray products. These next-generation, high-definition DVD formats are putting consumers in the middle of another VHS vs. Betamax fight.

    Microsoft is backing HD-DVD and just released a related DVD add-on for the Xbox 360. Sony is backing Blu-Ray. Let the battle of the high-tech titans begin. And round one has to go to Microsoft since Sony had problems with supply for its new PlayStation 3 gaming console, which plays Blu-Ray discs.

    When I asked Gates if he was unhappy about the format wars and that consumers would pay the price in the end, he talked up the benefits of HD-DVD, as expected. But he did admit that it would have been better if there was a single format.

    Technology will no doubt ride to the rescue, thanks to new devices such as LG's DVD player that supports both formats. But you'll pay $1,200 for it.



    story.san.miguel.cnn.jpg

    Headline News anchor Renay San Miguel will be getting a close look at many of the hot gadgets at CES this year.

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