January brings with it the start of a new year, and along with it the promise of all kinds of new technological gadgetry. This isn’t just a case of the year rolling over, either; January is also when the largest consumer technology trade show, CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) takes place in Las Vegas. It’s a chance for the heavyweights of the consumer technology trade to show off their latest and greatest wares, as well as the products that we should see on store shelves over the next couple of years. It’s a mixture of what you might think of as “pure” technology products, as well as more consumer-centric fare. As an example, last year’s CES was dominated by 3D Televisions, and they were still a presence this year, although with more focus on a glasses-free experience. TVs had to sit side by side with some major technology announcements, however. While Apple largely had the tablet computing field to itself in 2010, that’s not going to be the case in 2011, with new and rather exciting tablets on the table from LG, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, Motorola and RIM all on show. Some feature slide-out keyboards for those still not sold on the whole touchscreen motif, and many use NVIDIA’s powerful dual-core Tegra 2 chipset. One of the factors that has been a problem for Android-based systems recently has been the differing hardware that lies underneath each different Android phone. If the market consolidates around Tegra 2, those problems may become a thing of the past. Microsoft talked up its successes in 2010, particular surrounding the Kinect technology, as well as launching a revision of its business centric Surface technology, dubbed Surface 2. If the Tablet is the hot new thing, then the Surface is, in essence, the hot new thing on growth steroids. The original was, quite literally, a table, but one that happened to be touch sensitive. Costing over $20,000 each, these were serious promotional machines for hotel lobbies and the like. The new Surface 2 cuts the cost considerably (although Australian Surface buyers had a significant cost premium to pay, and it’ll be interesting to see if that premium continues with the second generation Surface), adds a tough gorilla glass exterior and a fascinating technology that turns each pixel on the display into a tiny sensing camera. Previous generation surface relied on specially designed tags that the Surface could “read”. The new Surface 2 may be able to do without them altogether.
Intel also used CES to launch its “Sandy Bridge” line of 2nd generation Core i7, Core i5 and Core i3 processors. As you’d expect, Intel’s busy talking up the improved processing speed of the new CPUs, and frankly, I’d be stunned if they promoted anything else. CES also sees its share of concept products, product pitches and things that are just plain weird. I’d have to say that the strangest I’ve heard of on the CES floor would have to have come from graphics chip giant NVIDIA. Not content with powering many of the best tablet computers on the show floor, somebody at NVIDIA got the bright idea of combining computing and beer, in the form of the Kegputer. The recipe’s pretty simple; a high end Sandy Bridge Intel Chip, Two NVIDA GTX 580s for graphics processing”¦ inside a working beer keg. I figured somebody was pulling my leg when they mentioned it, until I found video of it online. Who wouldn’t want one of these?