Four Bright Ideas at the 2010 CES

LAS VEGAS ( TheStreet) -- Every January, the annual migration that defines the gadget biz begins in the high Las Vegas desert: There Microsoft ( MSFT), Sony ( SNE), Google ( GOOG), Dell ( DELL) -- every electronic somebody except Apple ( AAPL) -- flocks to the Consumer Electronics Show to get a glimpse of what's hot for the coming year.

That begins an 11-1/2 month cycle of sniping, clobbering, discounting and otherwise trying to sell as much of this gear as possible by Dec. 24. Don't let all the Femtocells, Wi-Fi, 3-D screens fool you. This business is exactly that simple.

Once again, it's January -- how did that happen? -- so here's what's hot for this year's CES and for 2010. The CES, the largest consumer-technology trade show, with 2,700 vendors, runs from Jan. 7 to 10.

1. The Google Nexus One (probably about $550): In case you haven't heard, Google's got a phone. Though Google spokeswoman Carolyn Penner flatly told me the company has not shared one single public detail of this unit, that has not stopped the collective tech press from reporting literally hundreds of stories on a $500-ish Android 2.1, touch-enabled Google phone to be released in the first week in January at an event at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Though I expect this unit to be of limited actual use (the Google everything-should-be-free thing has magically disappeared here -- $550 for a phone!), the unit will almost certainly dominate CES coverage.

2. 3-D displays. (Price varies.): Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, Sanyo and other mega-display makers are facing a make-or-break year. Cheap upstarts like Vizio are killing them in most TV categories. So the industry is going all-in on pricey displays that create the illusion of depth. Expect a mind-boggling array of 3-D-imaging devices for games, TV and point-of-sale. Two to look for: Technicolor's demo of a low-end 3-D system that could jumpstart deployment for cheaper TVs. And a Tokyo-based research project called Aerial 3-D Display Project. In other words, a display that looks something like R2D2 projecting Princess Leia saying, "Help me, Obi-Wan." That boils down to a TV without the actual TV. Not bad.

3. The desktop photo studio -- Ortery Technologies Photosimile 5000. (Price TBA.): Small-business owners listen up: Irvine, Calif.-based Ortery Technologies has a cool idea: a desktop product-imaging device called the Photosimile 5000. Basically, it's a white background about the size of a large microwave married to a high-quality digital camera. Simply stick any item (up to a size of a decent handbag), click a few buttons on a PC and the unit coughs up a high-quality 2- and 3-D image. Have some stinky old merchandise you can't move? This gadget gets it up on eBay ( EBAY) fast.

4. The connected car: Here is this year's big idea: the car as gadget. None other than Ford Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally will be in Vegas hyping his new riff on a smart-car technology dubbed Sync. The 2010 model year will offer what amounts to a mobile hotspot that allows for easier cell and data integration as you drive. And though Ford, GM ( MTLQQ) and Toyota ( TM) deserve credit for raising auto IQ, with tools like this, the smarter car is going to be a tough slog. Remember, all cars run on the dumbest thing ever invented: rubber tires. There is not much a little Wi-Fi and data connectivity can do for that.
Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on FoxNews and The WB.

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