by Lindsey Adler
The January 8 press sessions at International CES 2012 here in Las Vegas included events from Monster, NETGEAR, and Panasonic, offering something splashy, something techie, and something, well, Timberlakey.
What was no doubt an effort to make a big splash first thing at CES, Monster’s attempt to serenade the press included celebrity cameos and a fashion catwalk. Monster CEO Noel Lee announced a broad range of new products, including many new headphone styles, concepts, and partnerships.
A range of power control products that communicate with equipment through the internet could be a boon for custom installers, and the real kicker is the mobile app that Monster has developed to accompany the product suite. Users can control lighting while monitoring and managing energy consumption from any iOS, Android, or Microsoft mobile platform. The idea is for an entire home entertainment system to be plugged into the “smart” surge protector, which is capable of turning on/off remotely and/or programming it to do so at designated times. Monster claimed the system could potentially double or triple energy savings. The products are also designed to be easy to set up and user friendly.
The Monster Micro is the smallest loudspeaker offering from Monster now and is an upgrade from the Clarity HD box. The portable speaker and speakerphone features voice command control with different voice “personalities.” Several people I spoke with found these voices rather offensive.
Monster also introduced a media player known as Streamcast. Users install the system themselves to distribute four streams of wireless audio in up to 12 zones. I didn’t get a clear conception of how this system might stack up to other media streamers. I felt this product was rushed through a bit to get to all the different headphone introductions and some celebrity cameos (Verdine White, founding member or Earth, Wind & Fire; actor, rapper, and TV host Xzibit; and a Skype appearance from performer Nick Cannon). Some of the headphones introduced included a Livestrong-branded iSport model; a Diamond Tears model, which Noel Lee said is “like wearing a diamond on your head;” and the Diesel (yes, the clothing brand) Inspiration headphones, which has different stylish headbands to chose from, including feathers, ribbons, and dog collar spikes among many other hip varieties.
Apart from all the glitz and glam Monster went after so aggressively, I found NETGEAR refreshingly grounded to follow with several interesting home networking product introductions.
The presentation by VP of marketing David Henry started off with a few interesting statistics. Between 2010 and 2011, there was a 70-percent increase in the households with more than six devices connected to the internet, and more than half of the internet traffic in homes today is real-time entertainment, usually from devices other than a PC. The ensuing products were introduced, citing the need for a network upgrade.
A universal dual-band WiFi range extender helps compensate for dead zones in a home network. The device plugs in someplace between the router and the dead zone to extend coverage all the way to a basement or backyard. There are also four ports in the back, so users can directly connect a set-top box, Blu-ray player, or gaming device.
The coolest new product here for me was the NeoTV streaming player that turns a legacy TV into a smart TV to stream content, including from Hulu plus. There is a smartphone app for it, so remotes are unnecessary, and it also features Intel’s WiDi (wireless display) technology to project content from a laptop to the TV.
The other highlight for me from NETGEAR was its Genie mobile app, which allows users to view the devices both on or near the network. This allows homeowners to kick off a mooching neighbor or kick the kids offline if it’s past their bedtime.
NETGEAR also unveiled its Smart Network, composed of routers, storage devices, media players and a cloud app server, as well as an open app development platform, so partners can write apps that run on the Smart Network. The company plans to announce several corresponding hardware products in the next few months for consumers.
The biggest news that came out of Panasonic came at the very end. Justin Timberlake showed up onstage to share Myspace TV. Content with a social experience is the only real description we received. Reactions were very mixed due to the social network’s decline in the industry, but the idea itself stands out. And of course, Timberlake’s attachment to the venture probably gives it the best shot at success.
But Myspace TV was far from the only announcement Panasonic made. In a partnership with NBC, Panasonic will be shooting the 2012 Olympics in 3D. There was a stand-alone Skype communication device, the Toughbook tablet, which is waterproof and rugged enough to drop, as was demonstrated.