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On January 4th, 2006 the Consumer Electronics Show kicked off. Every year starts with this show now, and it kind of sets the pace for the industry if not for the entire year, but at least for the next few months. This time, the show was expected to finally become big enough to count for a worthy replacement for COMDEX that rested in peace a while ago. And I have to say that even the bravest forecasts came true: there were over 2,500 exhibitors at the show, and the number of visitors has exceeded 150,000 people.

This year they added up one more hall, the Sands pavilion, but even then the number of companies that have actually been present exceeded those listed in the show registry: as always there were plenty of people hiding from the noise and crowds of the show floors in the hotel suites and meeting rooms. And my task, as always, was to go and find out what exciting things these guys are saving up their sleeve. If you have been reading our news from last week, then you probably know quite a bit about the latest and greatest. But definitely there was much more than that in the show. So, let’s take a quick look at a few interesting things I spotted at CES this year.

Cell Phones Go Smarter

It is the Consumer Electronics Show, and therefore, I would like to start with the No.1 consumer electronics product – cell phones. As you can imagine there were plenty of those in the show. All shapes and colors, all types and standards. And of course, the new phone models acquire higher quality LCD displays with better resolution and color reproduction, longer battery life, faster and more advanced graphics. This is where the two graphics market leaders step in, I am talking about ATI and NVIDIA, of course.

The situation in the mobile and handheld market segment is developing very well for both competitors. ATI claims that during the last quarter only they shipped over 40 million graphics chips for the cell phone market, and this number keeps growing. The primary market for ATI powered phones is North America (you can find a lot of cell phones from Motorola, LG, Samsung, Fujitsu), then comes Korea, then Europe. This is a very high margin market, so no wonder that ATI is putting a lot of effort into growing it even bigger. However, there is no need to worry that they will shift their focus more towards this high-margin market. ATI reps assured me that no matter what 50% of their business will still remain the PC business (desktop and mobile solutions).

One very interesting cell phone that I managed to play with at the show was displayed on the LG booth. The cell-phone with breathalyzer that has been first announced in October last year was now demonstrated at the CES show. It tests your breath for 3 seconds for alcohol and then displays the message “Not drunk” (in my case). Apparently, if you have had a few drinks it will even display the percentage of alcohol, so you will always know whether you can drive or not. I wonder if it can automatically call a taxi in case the verdict is “drunk”. I am sure you can program it to.

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