Was there anything worthwhile at CES?


Pip Coburn ponders the value of CES. Along with taking a potshot at Tablet PCs, Pip doesn’t seem all that enthusiastic about much of anything he saw at the recent CES tradeshow. I talked with a handful of press people at CES with similar sentiments.

I’m not sure what they were expecting to see that would dazzle them, however, I think by looking for something big they actually missed it. People are noticing how much technology–particlularly “small tech” (the gadget kind)–they are using that they are assuming that they should see something dramatic coming down the road. Like most things that have to do with predicting the future, the “next big thing” is most likely to be obvious a couple years from now.

However, CES did point out some big tech transistions underway. Unfortunately they were the boring kind. They were boring in large part because the pontificators had already assumed that they would exist. They’ve discounted the hype if you will. But I’m not going to get caught up in the anti-hype. I’m very much enthused by what I saw.

So what was it at CES that I think was so big? The number one thing: the new dual core processors from Intel. Yeah, I can hear the collective yawn already. But this is big. Really big.

Recall, it was nothing less than Intel’s offer of lower-power, less heat-producing, higher-horsepower dual core processors that lured Apple from Freescale. This is amazing in itself.

And combine this with the fact that notebook sales are now outpacing desktops.

And finally, add in the fact that in Intel’s roadmap there are expected to be four core, eight core, and who knows how many core processors on the horizon.

Anyone who has dreamed of processing video, super large images, analyzing sound, handwriting, or in general processing data from the real world is going to have a smile on their face. We are entering a new era of practical data analysis on the small scale.

We’re still 10 or maybe 15 years from having the processing power for the things I’d like to do, however, we’re on a much better path than we were even last year. My prediction: 2006 is going to go down in history as the year that things changed.

True, it’s going to take awhile for the impact of multicore processing to filter through the tech world, but it will. This year alone, however, I’m guessing that the dual core processors will not only help Apple’s computer sales grow–particularly notebooks–but it will be responsible for many more people transitioning away from the plugged-in, desktop world. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some marketing guru isn’t able to swipe the term “desktop” from the tech lexicon and redefine the problem as being one of either “plugged” or “unplugged” when it comes to computers.

As a developer I’m quite excited about the transition underway. As a consumer I’m chomping at the bit. I can’t wait for my dual core—uh, Duo Core–Tablet PC.