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Just got in off the red-eye this morning from CES so I’m sleep-walking through the day.

Biggest news? The new Apple iPhone. Of course, Apple wasn’t at CES (thump). Other than that, CES merely confirmed that a) there really are over 1,000 different types of digital cameras and b) there really are hundreds of different types of plasma screens.

Good stuff: I got to meet up with a good number of people I hadn’t seen in a while, and met for the first time a bunch of journalists that I really respect, people like Dwight Silverman, Ed Bott, Dan Tynan and Carl Siechert.

Petty annoyances: CES is this hodge podge, market-place like atmosphere. In the old days of Comdex, the main halls were for the big guys — IBM, Microsoft, etc. The Hilton and Sands tended to be for the smaller companies. This was a distinct class structure (created largely by the fee and advance payment structure by tradeshow power-broker Sheldon Adelson), but it made the show more consistent. CES, on the other hand, may have some a Crazy Eddie-style hawker of a new flashlight right next to, say, HP’s booth. Oh, and my seat was broken on my return flight. A sold-out flight, so I just lived with it. Whatever.

Products? Don’t ask me. I certainly didn’t do any in-depth review of products, because I didn’t have the time (nor patience) to do the whole show and look at all the toys. Besides, how can one possibly understand and take in all the data, without being at least marginally educated in each field? Some of what I found out about was through chatting with people, like the the product manager at Cobra, who told me about a cool new radar detector they’re coming out with that has built-in GPS– based detection for speed and traffic cameras (not that I would ever use about that); and another company’s CEO with a wifi-based wireless speaker system that might be promising.

Most relaxing moments: I was given an invite from a good friend to go to the Dolby suite. It’s in the middle of the show floor, you enter a different world, with a masseuse, an open bar,
hors d’oeuvres, and most importantly, comfortable seating. Ray Dolby wandered in for a bit (he looks like a really nice fellow) and the Dolby folks were kind enough to give me a care package, which included the new Beatles Love CD. (Thanks, Steve!) Of course, I also fit in some time later to play Blackjack with a group of very happy Gator fans (there were lots of them in Vegas for the game).

Humorous experiences? Not much, although I did find some humor with these new infrared sinks, towel and soap dispensers that most of the public restrooms have now. I walked into a large, crowded public restroom and watched as the system went absolutely bezerk as it accidently sensed all the passers-by — sinks turning off and on, soap pumping out. It looked like a cross between Poltergeist and the The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Talk about false positives..

Great impressions: The new Wynn hotel — wow, this is a really nice hotel — really nice. And Panasonic’s display of its large-scale flat screen TVs with Kabuki theater performance. The company had multiple huge flat screens setup, with a Kabuki performance in the middle two screens, and the screens themselves would move up and down and rotate to follow the performance. Extremely cool. Finally, Honda’s Asimo robot was wowing the crowd, right next door to massive Hummers and tiny Lotus’ loaded to the gills with state-of-the-art sound systems (some making the building shake with low-frequency vibration).

Scale? The crowds are always epic and are something to behold.

Anyway, I think I’m done talking about CES.

Alex Eckelberry