Philadelphia Area HP Handheld Club Meeting
Wednesday, January 22, 1997 - Drexel University
1997 Winter Consumer Electronics Show Report
The Winter CES (1/9 to 1/12/97) is behind us, and I'd say that it was quite entertaining, with its 1800+ exhibitors spread over four buildings. Virtually every CE company which has had a presence at the shows in the past was in Las Vegas this time as well.
Handhelds - Windows CE Machines
(Click on desired image above to see a large-sized version)
In the handhelds world, the big draw at the CES this time was Microsoft's booth, which mainly promoted Windows CE and the HPC handhelds which have just been announced or are already being sold. All seven manufacturers' products were there for attendees to try out. This included a prototype of the Hewlett-Packard unit, which also was prominently shown at its own booth, only a few aisles away. Other companies showing their HPC units also separately were Casio, Philips and Lucky-Goldstar. (I got videotape of Casio's and Philips' HPC presentations, plus some discussion at HP's booth on their model.)
The folks at the HP booth were very open with their information about their box. Apparently, some time in April, HP will announce two HPC models, both with 640 by 240 LCD touchscreens (as opposed to 480 by 240 screens on all six competitors' models), plus serial and two-way infrared ports. Model one will have 2 meg of RAM, a PCMCIA card slot and will not be backlit. Model two will have 4 meg of RAM, a PCMCIA card slot plus a Compact Flash card slot, PC docking cradle and will be backlit. Both will come with PC data connectivity software.
The expected prices are $499. and $699. The codename for the product was "Luke", to continue the Star Wars theme that apparently was started around the time of the "Jedi" Omnigo organizer. Check out the information from HP's web site, where there's a great deal of stuff.
Another thing recent HP announcement which was heard (but not seen) at the booth was the discontinuance of the 1-meg HP200LX, the reduction in price of the 2-meg unit to $499. and the introduction of a 4-meg version at $599. It seems that the success of the third-party memory enhancements got HP to react. Unfortunately, it is felt that the 4-meg unit cannot be further expanded.
Handhelds - New TI-86 and CBR Device
Texas Instruments announced two handheld-related products which should be of interest. First the TI-86 calculator, to be available in the Summer, takes the TI-85 a step further. It adds functionality that the TI-83 added to the '82, plus quadruples the RAM from 32 to 128K (with around 96K usable). Secondly, TI also introduced the CBR, or Calculator Based Ranger, a dedicated ultrasonic rangefinder instrument which hooks up the the graphing handhelds for educational experimentation. This unit, which can take samples upto 200 points per second, will cost under $100. and come with software which automatically downloads to the calculator to which it is connected. Check out the numerous pages of information (from www.ti.com) in this handout. TI promises free TI-86 software available in the future as a download from their Web site.
Casio also showed their own version of a calculator-based measuring device, to compete in the market with TI's CBL and Firmware's recently-introduced PDL100 Portable Data Logger. Sharp followed up with their ZR-3000 Zaurus with a new $499. ZR-3500.
Digital Video Disk (DVD) Finally
The DVD floodgates officially opened at CES, with the final agreement between manufacturers and the motion picture industry on a data encoding scheme for DVD movie disks. Players were shown by all the major video/audio companies, with high-end products showcased by Sony and Pioneer. Sony's box plays both DVD and original CD disks, and provides all the special slow-motion/stop-action/ frame-step features of high-end laserdisk players and will cost around $1000. Pioneer's unit goes one step further, playing CD, DVD and original 12-inch laserdisks as well. The other companies' units range in price from $500 to $700. mostly. The key to selling these units will be availability of movie titles. If lots come out quickly and at a reasonable cost, one should expect that DVD will catch on. Technologically, they far surpass CD with a 4.7 gigabyte capacity (in the SMALLEST configuration which is single-sided and single-data-layer), providing up to 133 minutes of full-motion video along with 6-channel digital audio, multiple picture aspect ratios and up to 32 sets of subtitles. The double-sided, double-dats layer units will hold a whopping 18 Gig of data.
Another possibility for DVD disks is the audio-only format, which has been kicked around for a while now. When the industry agrees on how it will be done, we can expect not only longer-length disks (with the capacity for twelve hours of CD-quality two-channel digital audio on a single-sided/single-layer disk) but higher quality sound; possibly providing up to 96 KHZ sampling rates with data words up to 24 bits (as opposed to 44.1 KHZ and 14 bits for regular CD). It is not expected that the audio-only issues will be resolved for several months yet.
Digital Still Cameras
I really believed that this product category was only a passing fad, however it looks now like it is taking hold. Perhaps twenty companies are now in this market with some sort of electronic still camera which can send its captured images to a PC, TV or printer. Some allow accompanying audio to be recorded along with the stills and some have full-motion modes for recording short video sequences. Some come with standard or optionally attachable LCD screens to preview/review the photos. As far as storage is concerned, it appears that they may be divided into three groups: (1) Cameras with non-removable memory; (2) those with removable plug-in memory cards; and (3) those with plug-in rotating memory.
A few examples of type one are Kodak's lowest-cost DC20 camera with space for only 16 low-res or 8 high-res frames, Sony's DSC-F1 camera with a capacity of 108 frames and Casio's latest QV300 with a capacity of 64 high-res or 192 low-res images. These all must be offloaded to a PC or printed before the camera may be reused. (In addition to a cabled connection, the Sony model also offers infrared data transfer capabilities.)
Those of the second type of cameras with plug-in card memory vary greatly in the type and size of memory used. While some systems utilize full-sized PCMCIA cards such as Ricoh RDC-1 & RDC-2 and Kodak DC50, there are those which use one of the three competing small-card formats, such as the Fuji DS7 which uses the Toshiba-made Solid State Floppy Disk Cards and the Konika Q-EZ which uses Intel Miniature Cards.
Lastly, in the third category two models appeared. Hitachi introduced a compact camera which utilizes type-III PCMCIA hard drives to store up to 3 thousand still images (or fewer with accompanying audio). The 260-meg drives are rather expensive, of course. Also Sharp showed their MD-PS1 camera which stores up to 2 thousand images onto a recordable mini disc, which costs less than $15. each. This to me shows the most promise, because of the low cost of the media.
Along the lines of the low-cost removable media, Iomega announced an upcoming small disk format which will be compatible with future Zip drives. Called "n-hand", it features tiny disks which have a 20-meg capacity and will cost less than ten dollars each. They are touting it for future use in still digital cameras as well as other products. More info appears later in this handout. Also check this out at www.iomega.com.
Digital Videotape Still In The Mix
The Digital Videotape (DV) format continues to gain popularity, as manufacturers are in the midst of unveiling their next generation of camcorders. Sony has released the DCR-PC7, a truly palm-sized unit with built-in color LCD in addition to its viewfinder. Using the "mini-DV" tapes, a 60 minute capacity is available, or 90 minutes in the new LP mode. This unit appears to be in response to JVC's well-received GR-DV1 handheld camcorder. Actually, JVC showed a followup palm-sized one (GV-DS1) of its own. Sharp continues to push the "Viewcam" form factor, with a few DV versions with 4-inch and 5-inch LCD displays attached. And Panasonic is still involved, although I am not aware of any new models. At Sony's booth, they showed a prototype of their DV VCR, which has all the capabilities to become a studio-quality editing deck. When the industry squabbling ends over copy protection and copyright issues, this deck will likely be released. Cost will be steep, though, with the price expected in the $3000 range.
Large, Flat Displays
A handful of companies showed off their latest large-sized flat displays, to be used in future television and computer applications. Panasonic had a 42-inch color plasma screen which was bright and clear when viewed from almost any angle. Sharp showed a 40-inch color LCD panel, which looked great from the front, but washed out when viewed from angles more than 45 degrees from the perpendicular. Philips is also working on a 40-plus-inch flat display for the consumer market. Initial prices for these is expected to be above that of the most expensive large projection systems, but should come down quickly.
In addition to the growing segment of TV set-top internet access devices, a new facet to this industry was revealed at this show - Internet enabled telephones. Philips, Uniden and CIDCO showed phones with accompanying QWERTY keyboards and 6-plus-inch monochrome LCD screens for sending and receiving email, brownsing the web and more. I'm not sure what segment of the market will be addressed by these phones, but at $500. and up, we'll see if it becomes a standard or a passing fancy.
Videotape and Slides from the Show
I have around an hour of videotape, plus around 160 slides from the CES. If anyone is interested in a oopy of the tape along with transfers of the slides to the same video, feel free to contact me.
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