Wi-Fi: Best Supporting Actor at CES 2009: Page 2

Posted January 16, 2009

Lisa Phifer

Lisa Phifer

(Page 2 of 2)

Wireless in motion

Wireless mobile products ran the gamut from phones, notebooks, and netbooks to wearable computing devices, VoIP phones, and other wireless-enabled peripherals.

Although there were plenty of touch-screen iPhone wannabe's on display, the Palm Pre (1H09, price TBA) took home top prize in CNET's Best of CES 2009 competition. This smartphone combines a 320 x 480 touch-screen with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and a plethora of wireless interfaces: 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, EV-DO Rev. A or HSDPA, Bluetooth 2.1, and GPS. But it was Palm's all-new WebOS that won this award by supporting full-featured Web applications and combining messaging, contact, and calendar data from multiple online repositories.

While touch-screen phones are hot, they aren't the final word in smartphone innovation. LG used its keynote to unveil its flashy new LG-GD910 Touch Watch (price TBA, pictured above). This 1.43 inch 3G (HSDPA) wrist-watch phone will support video chat, voice recognition, text-to-speech, and text messaging. The Touch Watch is slated to appear first in Europe late this year.

In fact, some folks argue that mobile phones don't have to be connected to wireless WANs at all. Consider the new GiiNii Movit Mini (3Q09, $149, pictured right), an Android-powered 4.3-inch touch-screen "mobile Internet" device that comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This inexpensive "Android iPod touch" includes a Skype client and microphone/speakerphone to enable free VoIP calls at home, at work, and on the go using any Wi-Fi hotspot.GiiNii Movit Mini_High Res.jpg

Boingo Wireless and Skype also made several interesting announcements at CES 2009. Skype demonstrated its new Mac client, which provides not only network-independent Skype VoIP calls, but now seamless Internet access at over 100,000 Boingo Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide. A new "lite Skype" client was also announced for Android devices and Java-enabled mobile phones.

Not to be outdone, Boingo announced its new Boingo Mobile connection manager, which will come bundled on Motorola Q11 and Nokia N Series smartphones and be available for download to Nokia E Series and Sony Ericsson UIQ 3.0 handsets. Boingo Mobile subscribers will pay $7.95 per month for unlimited, global use of Boingo Wi-Fi hotspots.

Finally, netbooks—a product category that barely existed at CES 2008—were abundant at CES 2009. For example, Viliv displayed its new S7 (2Q09, price TBA), an Intel Atom-based mobile Internet device with 7-inch keyboard, swiveling touch-screen LCD, WiMAX, HSDPA, Bluetooth, and 802.11b/g. MSI demonstrated its new U120H ($999), an Atom-based 10" widescreen 1024x600 netbook that incorporates both WiMAX and 802.11n.

Let me entertain you

Many companies demonstrated Wi-Fi enabled Internet radios at CES 2009, including Cobra's CIR 1000A ($199), Grace Digital's GDI-IR3020 (price TBA), and Tangent's Quattro ($399). For example, Myine's Ira Wi-Fi Internet Radio (now, $129) is a turn-key Internet radio designed for non-techie residential users. This receiver uses the Internet to play back audio streamed by 11,000 free digital AM/FM stations and HD2/HD3 multicast channels. Just connect this tabletop radio to your home wireless router and tune into stations, filtered by location or genre.spyball.jpg

WowWee Technologies showed off its line of high-tech toys, including the Rovio ($299), a Wi-Fi enabled mobile Webcam that can be controlled and viewed remotely from any Web-enabled device (PC, smart phone, video game console). The company also introduced the Spyball (price TBA, pictured right), a remote-controlled Wi-Fi enabled spy-cam that can transform from a ball to a camera and back again, moving stealthily throughout a home. The Spyball captures video and still images, accessible over the Internet or through Wi-Fi Ad Hoc connections.

If your taste in toys runs a bit spicier, adult entertainment provider FyreTV announced its newest set-top BoXXX ($9.95 per month). This 6" x 7" device now uses 802.11b/g to connect inconspicuously to any Wi-Fi home or hospitality network, feeding subscription-based video content to any nearby TV.

Unwire your home

Home networking products at CES 2009 ranged from broadband modems and routers to media servers, network-attached storage devices, and video distribution systems. Here, Wi-Fi has clearly become a commodity. There were many inexpensive 802.11n Draft 2.0 APs, routers, PCI cards, and USB adapters on display from manufacturers like TP-Link, Netronix, Encore, Airlink101, and ASUS. However, there were several new Wi-Fi products that caught our attention in this category.

  • The Motorola CPEi775 (price TBA) builds upon the CPE150 now used by Clearwire, adding an integrated Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g router and two VoIP ATA ports to an ultra-thin, multi-colored WiMAX modem. This router uses integrated, adaptive high-gain antennas that do not need to be repositioned to optimize signal strength, and isolates Wi-Fi and WiMAX signals to avoid interference between the two.
  • Celeno displayed its latest 5GHz 802.11a/n system-on-a-chip (SoC) offerings, including the CL1300-VBA, a video bridge adapter reference design. This wireless video extender uses 4x4 MIMO antennas with client-agnostic beamforming. Four HD video streams can be delivered with guaranteed QoS to wireless media servers, DVRs, multi-media PCs, and IPTV home gateways up to 150 feet away.
  • D-Link announced its new Xtreme N 450 Dual Band Router (price and availability TBA), which uses 3x3 MIMO with simultaneous dual-band 2.4 and 5 GHz operation to achieve a top link speed of 450 Mbps. But this product was to some degree over-shadowed by the glitzier Xtreme N DIR-685 (2Q09, $249), an "all-in-one" 802.11n router with network attached storage (NAS), USB printer/scanner SharePort technology, and a 3.2-inch LCD digital photo frame/display.
  • TrendNET’s tiny 2.5” x 3.25’ x 0.75” TEW-654TR ($90, pictured right) is 300Mbps Wireless N Travel Router comes with a thin 3-foot Ethernet cable (for 10/100 uplink) and can be powered by USB or the included power adapter. TrendNET also announced a 450 Mbps Wireless N Gigabit Router, the TEW-773GR (3Q09, $199), which will combine 3x3 MIMO with GigE LAN/WAN ports.TrendNET-TEW-654TR.jpg
  • Surprisingly, the CES 2009 Best of Innovations Award here did not go to a 3x3 router, but to a dual-radio 2x2 product. Netgear's RangeMax Dual Band Wireless-N Gigabit Router (2Q09, $179) uses a 680 MHz CPU and rate adaptive QoS algorithms to make the most of its simultaneous dual-band 802.11n radio and eight internal antennas. Netgear representatives say the unit has a top link speed of 600 Mbps (300 per band), yielding 300 Mbps of actual throughput. This router was the cog in the company's "connected lifestyle" demo that included Netgear's new EVA9150 Digital Entertainer (2Q09, $399) – a dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n digital media player. These products work together to move photos, movies, music, and other digital content quickly throughout the home.
  • Finally Linksys by Cisco announced its pitch for the home entertainment space. The company's new 802.11n-based Wireless Home Audio product line is composed of a Conductor (the DMC350 Wireless-N Digital Music Center, price TBA), a Director (the DMC250 Wireless-N Music Player with Integrated Amplifier, $449), and a Player (the DMP100 Wireless-N Music Extender, $299), and a remote Controller (the DMWR1000 Wireless-N Touchscreen Remote, $349). Together, these components use 802.11n to deliver audio to any room in the home—you can even stream different music to customized “zones." A two-room starter kit (Director + Player + Controller) is expected to retail for $999.

These products illustrate the growing importance of Wi-Fi as a consumer electronics infrastructure technology—as well as its role in delivering high-quality, but hassle-free, home entertainment. The economy may slow market enthusiasm for some of these new offerings, but these companies have a clear vision for the future—one in which everything is not just wirelessly connected, but able to freely locate and share content. For consumers still struggling to understand their home theater's remote, this improved integration will be a blessing.

Lisa Phifer owns Core Competence, a consulting firm focused on business use of emerging network and security technologies. A frequent contributor to Wi-Fi Planet, Lisa has been a bleeding-edge adopter of network-enabled consumer electronics for over 20 years.

This article was first published on WiFiPlanet.com.

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Tags: Microsoft, wireless, Intel, HP, Broadcom

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