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Gadgets and Gizmos – What They Mean to Their Makers

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A look at ten favorites from the Consumer Electronics Show.


The glitz may be over at the recent Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show, but everyone is still wondering what everything they saw really means … to us as consumers and to us as tech investors. 


The CES has a well-deserved reputation as the place where companies roll out their new whiz-bang stuff. We saw the PC here first. We saw the VCR here first. And this year, there’s a gadget that makes a ping-pong ball move around in 3D space according to your brain waves. My, how I’ve been waiting for that!


This annual tech blowout is where we get to see serious technologies with serious business consequences. So I’d like to look at ten favorites to many of the attending industry commentators—products that may have a chance in the real world, a chance to revolutionize, or at least evolutionize, our way of doing things.


The next question is: Will these new products also be breakthroughs for their companies? I’ll take a look at that, too. I grouped the ten products by high, medium, and low potential impact on the company and its stock price:


High impact:


  • Yahoo Connected TV. Yahoo expands its “widgets” business to offer full-length video and movies. This could be big for consumers and the company, if it finally cracks the nut for video on demand delivered through the Internet. And it could make Yahoo a target once again of Microsoft or other media companies. Stay tuned.


  • Logitech G19 Gaming Keyboard. I’m not a gamer, but this keyboard does offer something for the IM-distracted PC user—a small display like a camera’s to get game info (or watch YouTube) while you play Halo. It’s not a revolutionary product in and of itself, but the keyboard shows that Logitech understands you can make more money with specialized niche products. The company won seven CES innovation awards—pretty good for a supplier of commodity products. Niche strategy—if it takes hold, could help the company.


  • Palm Pre Smartphone. Another entry into the iPhone fray, but a pretty good one with PDA-like features, a full QWERTY keyboard and a touch screen, among many other features. The markets liked it so much that the stock shot up 34 percent the day of the launch.


Medium impact:


  • Nokia E63 Smart Phone and DNLA alliance. Another me-too, this time in the BlackBerry category. This full-keyboard smart phone is brought over from Europe, and weighs in at only $249 unlocked. I’m thinking it should bring Nokia into the highest growth segment and profit segment as a smart-phone contender. What I really like is the DNLA alliance with Philips, to get home electronics to synch up with phones. That vision, plus becoming a banking device, will really expand the mobile phone. Nokia may (and should) be at the center of this.


  • Dell XPS 625 Gaming PC. A gaming PC wouldn’t normally excite me much, but this one has really cool design elements. But what’s better for Dell is the return to customizable PC builds for computer enthusiasts, their old bread and butter and most profitable business. If they do more of this and less of the mundane commodity stuff, bravo for the company and for the stock.


  • Microsoft Windows 7. The beta for Windows 7—a refinement of the original but hugely disappointing Vista—was announced by CEO Steve Ballmer in his keynote speech at CES. The good news: Microsoft usually does pretty well with new OS rollouts. If Microsoft does it right, it could move the company back into a leadership position. But hard to say with what we know now, and will folks upgrade in this economy after staying put with XP or moving to Apple?


Low impact:


  • Pioneer VSX-819H A-V Receiver. Pioneer has long been a commodity player in the audio market, and its recent earnings performance reflects this. It has been further hurt by the consumer slowdown and stronger dollar. But this A-V receiver has a lot of nice features for $300—it seems like a good value for consumers looking for a primary or even a secondary location in their homes. But I don’t think it will move the stock much, and it’s hard to invest in this Tokyo exchange company.


  • Sony X-Series Walkman and Cybershot G3 camera/browser. Both are neat new products and I really like the G3’s ability to take pictures and move them to or from this device to anywhere. The G3—putting Web access within a camera—probably defines a new category. And as for the Walkman, finally we breathe some new life into this old but fabulous brand. But neither of these products will be much of a blip on this giant’s radar, I fear. This company’s fortunes are much more driven by consumer spending and foreign exchange rates.


  • HP TouchSmart PC. Pretty cool new package pretty much does away with the mouse and brings a more Apple-like feel to this PC. But I don’t really get what it does for me, and company marketing materials don’t help much. Could be a flash in the pan, or it could be the future of computing. I can’t really tell. Nice to see HP innovating, but I just don’t see this one changing things much.


  • T-Mobile G1 with Google Android. The phone, a slide-style smart phone with a full keyboard, is nice but nothing really new. It’s the Google OS that has everyone searching for the truth. Will this open source OS become the Windows of mobile world? Or will nobody really care and write software for it? Will it be another of the many great things Google does? Or simply a distraction from those great things? Too hard to tell at this point.


Once again, technology brings good things to life, and good things to our investments. But shop carefully. Visit WeSeed’s Tech Market for more thoughts, share your views and test drive your ideas.


Jennifer Openshaw, author of The Millionaire Zone, is co-founder and president of WeSeed.


Photo courtesy of WeSeed

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