Day 3 found me madly rushing around as I never felt I had quite enough time to do what I needed. That said, it was an interesting and insightful day.
First stop, the T-mobile booth in the Ventian. They had the Lumia 710 in both black and white, as well as the HTC Radar but it was clear it was their android lineup they were pushing. In fairness, rightly so. Their high end devices are all android right now, and are as good as those on other networks. I spoke with a few people there though don’t remember any names, but one had been directly involved with getting the Lumia 710 to T-Mobile. He told me that they have no plans to make their own back covers for the 710 at the moment, and confirmed they won’t be stocking Nokia’s in store. I also found out the excuse for not having a wired headset in the box – apparently people prefer to get a Bluetooth headset these day. He might be right, but I still think they should include one, and it smacks of trying ton make a few extra dollars for T-Mobile every time you buy one.
I got the impression that T-Mobile is behind Windows Phone and although they wouldn’t tell me more, that they are trying to get more high end Windows Phone devices to the network. I expressed my concern that one carrier (AT&T) is hogging the Windows Phone high end right now, and then moved on.
Next stop – the Las Vegas Convention Center to hunt out the HTC booth. Sadly, it didn’t exists – an hour of my life wasted. I was really surprised to find that all HTC had at CES was a small meeting room and not a full size booth, especially with the Titan 2 getting announced.
From there I headed off to meet the others from Nokia Connects for lunch. When I arrived, there were people there from the Nokia Maps team. The discussion there was interesting and I was able to ask a lot of questions. They are fully focused on Windows Phone right now and development in house there is very fast. At the Nokia booth I had seen Nokia City Lens and Nokia Transit apps, and we had been using Nokia Pulse, and was excited to hear about the future of these apps. It sounds like there will be a convergence of Maps products again (after they were split apart in Symbian) and that Maps on Windows Phone will catch up to the Symbian version relatively quickly – in much less than a year, so I’m looking forward to having live traffic info, and local speed limits in the WP7 app. Interestingly, further developments will be to map paths and bike lanes and other places where car’s can’t go, and also to make maps related technology more useful.
The theory is people only use a map when they don’t know where they are, but what if that traffic data could tell you, as you are about to leave for work, based on previous routes you have taken, how long it will take today, or when you need to leave your house to get the bus or train? That kind of thing, I think , would be really useful, and hopefully we see that at some point in the future.
Microsoft, Windows Phone and Skype
Back at the Convention Center, the Microsoft booth in the Central Hall was a bustling place with all kinds of stand. Lots of people were playing XBox 360 games, or watching the Windows 8 demo’s. For me, I used the time to check out other Windows Phones and hoped to see a Titan 2, but sadly that one was nowhere to be seen. I did see the Titan and several others which i will mention more about in a different post, here I’ll talk more about my conversations. There were two in particular that stood out, one with someone at the Windows Phone booth, and one with guy in the Skype area.
They were remarkable different conversations, though, that may be partly due to the questions I asked. I had a few developer focused questions for Windows phone (i.e Why can’t developers access videos saved on the phone and upload them anywhere? Why can’t i write “my photo sharing service” and have it integrate with the Pictures hub or automatically end pictures there?) and while i didn’t get specific answers, I think we can hope for Windows 8 style contracts to come to Windows Phone at some point. However, he was very cold on Nokia. I don’t remember the exact question I asked, but if the view inside MS is how this guy described it, i am a little worried. Basically, Nokia is just like any other OEM, and MS works equally with all their hardware partners and won’t give any preferential treatment to Nokia (or anyone else). I asked what the deal was all about back last year then and was told (paraphrased) “Nokia can do whatever deal they want, but for us they are just a 3rd party and will be treated the same as Samsung, HTC and our other hardware partners who we also work closely with.”
Skype on the other hand – now that was a very un-Microsoft conversation, but painted a very disjointed picture of Microsoft. First off, the Meamo and MeeGo teams were a joy to work with on the N900 and N9. Skype and the Lync team (part of Microsoft office) work really well together apparently too but when it comes to Windows Phone it sounds like Skype are treated like a 3rd party app and not as part of Microsoft. Skype will be coming to Windows Phone in the first half of 2012 and will likely not have video or be integrated the first time we see it. That will happen eventually though – Apollo perhaps. You wont see much change on Skype for Windows but Windows 8 is the other priority (after Windows Phone) that the team has right now so maybe it will be integrated there too.
Intel were just next door showing of the Lenovo K800 – the prototype phone for their Medfield chipset, which is supposed to launch in China sometime. I saw a demonstration of this phone and the graphic capabilities looked impressive, but I’ve since read reports that parts of that presentation were staged, and frankly, while I wondered if anything was on the phones screen at one point when gorgeous graphics were being displayed on the monitor above, the viewing angle was not a good one for me to offer any conclusions.
While I was there I was shown a lovely Acer ultrabook (not sure if it was S3 or S5), which was thin, and had a metal body. I have to admit I really liked it as our current laptop is heavy, and overheats easily, and has poor battery life. There wasn’t much more too it really – it had no fan as none was needed for its Core i5 (I think) processor, and a solid state drive so battery life and performance would both improved. It was too thin for an Ethernet adapter – WiFi only, which I’m not sure I like really, and had almost no USB ports either, but all in all, a very tempting package.
Samsung and Sony however were the behemoths of the central hall and I stopped by both. At Samsung, the only Windows Phone they had was the Samsung Focus S. It seemed nice, thin, comfortable in the hand. In fact, compared to the Samsung Galaxy Note, it was a joy to hold. The Note has phone capabilities, but it is not a phone. It’s a small tablet, and evidence for that is that I think it would struggle to fit in most pockets. That aside, it seemed nice enough, with a great screen, but I don’t think I could ever justify one. The review of it on the Verge is probably right.
Sony had a few things of interest for me. The PS Vita was ugly but enjoyable in my opinion. I played FIFA 2012 on it and it took a while to get used to tapping the front and back touchscreens for many operations, rather than using the usual buttons. Tapping the back is a nice idea, as having payed with virtual joysticks on mobile games, it’s annoying when the controls or your finger using them get in the way of game play.
Then they had the Sony Xperia Ion, which was a very square looking mono block smartphone. Nice though but as they were closing up when i got to it, I didn’t give much of a hands on. Still, it looked pretty feature rich and I’m sure people who get it will enjo it when it comes out. They also had a watch that will use Bluetooth to sync with any android phone and display messages, missed calls and other phone notifications along with the time, which is pretty neat.
3D TV’s, Headphones
Aside from that, I couldn’t get over the huge numbers of 3D TV’s on display. I’m sorry, but they are a gimmick, but they will be flooding to electronics retailers near you in increasing numbers as the year goes on I suspect. Anyone who had a TV there had a 3D one. Also, I there were even more headphone booths on the floor, Monster being the big one this time. I’m still trying to figure out what really separates some of these brands in that market. I noticed Monster didn’t carry the Purity or Purity HD headsets they developed with Nokia.
There was one other gadget I’m going to mention as one which was brilliant but annoyed me all at the same time. i’m Watch. Like Sony’s it syncs with your smartphone and displays missed calls and other notifications. Unlike Sony’s it uses WiFi to do it. This means tethering to get the best use out of your watch and in the USA, that means an extra $30/month on most cell phone plans (AT&T and T-Mobile will both be easing that soon, at least a little bit). Nice technology that very few will buy, at least in the US. It will connect by Bluetooth too, but only for SMS notifications if your device supports the Message Access Profile. Despite this, it did win an award for being among the top tech at CES.
Still, the central hall was an interesting place full of household names and I would have loved to have gone back. Still, I didn’t even get to the north hall yet.Sadly, I only realized how to get to the North hall as it was closing for the day, and for me, this was the last time I would be on the show floor at CES 2012.