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CES 2012: What Hit and What Missed


Minyanville finishes up its week at CES 2012 with a rundown of the show's impressive innovations and disappointing duds.

As CES 2012 draws to a close, we bid a fond farewell to the vendors, exhibits, and keynote presentations that filled this hectic week in Las Vegas. We also wish to extend a hearty hello to the chiropractors and podiatrists who will treat our ailments stemming from traversing the 1.7 million square feet of the convention several times over. But sifting through the sights and sounds, Minyanville saw many products that struck a chord -- some amazing, some promising, and some lackluster.

Here are our picks of the Winners and Losers of CES 2012.

Windows 8
As developers are busy tinkering away on Microsoft's (MSFT) latest update to its Windows line, the OS is starting to look really good, even better than before. Smoothly integrated into tablets and laptops alike, the Metro interface provides one of the simplest, cleanest, and most intuitive user experiences I've ever seen -- and yes, that includes Mac OS X (AAPL). It's refreshing to see Windows -- a platform that's had its ups and dizzying downs -- reinvent itself into something so elegant. Many of us didn't think the Redmond team had it in them.

Nokia Lumia 900
Once again, a struggling, unlikely contender has emerged from the shadows to give its best fight in a race most consider to be over. If it weren't for RIM (RIMM), Nokia (NOK) would have snatched the smartphone world's Biggest Loser crown for 2011 -- and Windows Phone would have been only a couple clips ahead. But the Nokia Lumia 900 -- due out on AT&T's (T) LTE network soon -- is evidence that there's still some fight left in the pair. Though it may not be as supported or beloved as the iPhone or Droid (GOOG), the Lumia 900 is a solid and respectable third-party candidate in a two-horse race.

Marvell's Google TV
I really wanted this to be good. After an abysmal launch which began with the worst controller in history and ended with harsh words from Logitech, Google TV continues to struggle with offering up a viable media center that could impress or even catch on with the public. Though it's undergone some welcome changes within Marvell's (MRVL) set-top box -- like automatically compiling available episodes when searching for a TV series -- Google TV still lacks the power, versatility, and wow-factor that will persuade average consumers to cut the cable cord. (See Minyanville at CES: What Smart TVs and Media Centers Still Can't Get Right)

The Verge's "Argue the Future" Presentation
When Joshua Topolsky and a slew of employees left Engadget following its buyout from AOL (AOL), analysts and tech fans were eager to see what the nomadic team was going to produce. In a little over two months, The Verge has become one of the leading -- and best-looking -- tech news sites on the web. And fortunately for us, Topolsky and his cohorts continued their excellence in a crackling live discussion at CES which managed to outshine keynotes from YouTube, Intel (INTC), Ford (F), Walmart (WMT), and Verizon (VZ). You know when the director of user experience at HTC denies that his phones have an Android skin that it's going to be a lively debate. Watch it here, and make sure to stay for the final Q&A question.

World's First 8K Television by Sharp
Good lord, what a picture! There was a persistent crowd gathered around Sharp's unbelievable 8K LCD unit -- which is 16 times sharper than HD. Standing slackjawed at the 85-inch screen, I heard at least three people remark, "Man, that looks like 3D." The Sharp representative remained mum on the technology that was running in the background to deliver the 7680x4320 resolution so smoothly, only to answer "It runs on magic" when I asked. (He divulged it was a proprietary system when I pressed him, and left it at that.) But he did admit that someone handed him a credit card earlier in the week, knowing it wasn't for sale. For a picture like that, almost anyone would be willing to hand Sharp a blank check.

Toshiba's Glasses-less 3D TV
And then, on the other end of the spectrum, we have glasses-less 3D TV from Toshiba -- which is like watching a McDonald's (MCD) Happy Meal hologram card at 32 inches. The biggest complaint from 3D TV detractors is the glasses requirement, and while Toshiba has nobly attempted to eliminate that hindrance toward 3D TV adoption, the company seems to have forgotten that a good-looking picture is also a plus. In a mere 30 seconds of watching the wobbly, interlaced video, my eyes began to hurt far more than they did following Avatar's 162-minute running time.

Home Automation
At this year's CES, everywhere you looked, there was a Smart TV. And invariably, a home automation system wasn't too far away. Showcased in demos from Verizon, Motorola (MMI), Intel, Belkin, and others, the future is finally starting to look the way Popular Mechanics shorts envisioned it. While it's very exciting to think of remotely controlling our lights via laptop or flipping on the heat as our car pulls into the driveway, the lack of a unified standard will prevent the technology from really taking off. And until one emerges, 2012's vision of the future will look as quaint and shortsighted as the one from the '50s.

Hoo-boy, where to begin? At the beginning of 2012, we already know that BlackBerry 10 isn't coming until the second half of the year, Apple's App Store alone is now worth more than all of RIM, and co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie are likely out as chairmen. The company has missed one opportunity after another to bounce back and has seemingly refused to evolve, so seeing its pitiful booth at CES wasn't much of a surprise. How pitiful? The highlights were an update to the PlayBook OS, Cut the Rope compatibility, and -- I am not kidding -- a $2,000 BlackBerry with a Porsche logo on it. I can't possibly see how any of this will end well.

Steve Ballmer's Keynote Presentation
Embarrassing? Entertaining? Entirely bizarre? Doesn't matter. It gave us this.

(See also: Minyanville at CES: Apple's Super-Secret Presence at CES and Minyanville at CES: Google Puts Positive Spin on Android's Fragmentation)

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