So it's odd that one of the most intriguing items I saw announced at the show was the very smallest.
That device is the MoGo Dapter. (Even its name is reduced in size.) It's the world's smallest Bluetooth adapter -- and it suggests a new wave of even smaller gadgets than the ones we've already become used to.
A Bluetooth Adapter That Goes Anywhere
The Dapter (photo, left) is a tiny device that plugs into any standard USB port. Unlike most USB drives and Bluetooth add-ons, which stick out from a laptop as much as a human finger would, the Dapter protrudes less than the length of a fingernail.
The ease with which the mini-gizmo adds Bluetooth support to laptop computers makes it a welcome entry into the market. The device's maker -- Newton Peripherals of Natick, Mass. -- quotes figures from IMS Research and the Bluetooth Special Interest Group suggesting that as many as 250 million laptops that lack Bluetooth capabilities are in use today.
The Dapter, however, may be even more compelling when used with tablets -- portable computers that are designed to be held in one hand while operated with the other. A 3-inch Bluetooth adapter sticking out the side of a sleek tablet would seem ludicrous and might even be dangerous. (I can hear my mother saying, "You could poke someone's eye out with that thing!") The tiny Dapter, by comparison, would hardly be noticed when plugged into the USB port of even the most svelte tablets.
The Smallest of the Small
The Dapter defies parallels with competing peripheral devices. It doesn't look like any other USB plug-in I can think of. It's more the size of a cuff link. It makes an iPod Nano seem bulky.
I'll try to convey to you the Dapter's miniscule dimensions by reciting its specs:
• Only 39 grams in total weight (less than one-tenth of an ounce).
• About 0.4 inch (1 cm) in total length -- only 0.2 inches of which remain visible outside a USB port when the device is plugged in.
• 38 milliamps of power consumption, maximum, when in use and 259 microamps (1/4 of one milliamp) when in sleep mode.
With weight and power draw that low, you could leave a Dapter plugged into your laptop or tablet computer all the time and barely notice that it was there. It would take months, if not years, for the device to deplete the battery of a laptop that was, say, sitting unused on a shelf.
The Size of Gadgets to Come
Newton Peripherals is also known for developing the MoGo Mouse, a flat pointing device that fits into a laptop's PC Card slot for easy transportability and rechargeability. (A newer model can be stored inside the ExpressCard/54 Card slot found on the latest laptops.)
The company's president and CEO, Matthew Westover, expects that the miniaturization exhibited by the MoGo Dapter -- and, to a lesser extent, the MoGo Mouse -- will influence the design of other tech products.
"We believe the ultra-low profile of the Dapter will become the standard design for adapters of all kinds," Westover says.
The company seems to have done a good job of keeping its invention under wraps. I found it only because I attended Martin Winston's Cherry Picks, a private, new-technology showcase that occurs the day before CES and is open only to working press. (The Cherry Picks Web page, as if to add to the mysterious nature of the Dapter, shows a picture of Newton Peripherals' latest MoGo Mouse but not the company's tiny new Bluetooth adapter.)
The Dapter is expected to carry a list price of $49.99 (lower at discounters). It should become available in the 2nd quarter of 2007.
More information on the MoGo Dapter and the MoGo Mouse is available at Newton's products page.
An Executive Tech update
My first book-length work in five years, "Windows Vista Secrets," has just become available. It reveals little-known tricks of Microsoft's new, Vista operating system that won't be obvious to most buyers. Use the following links for more information in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere.