CES 2003: The Unauthorized List

Virtually every company, brand, and industry coalition that attends the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas takes the opportunity to lay claim to the most "remarkable," "groundbreaking," or-three cheers for everyone's favorite-"innovative" developments at CES. Of course, they can't all be right. Sometimes the claim is dubious (Yet another plasma TV. Ya-hoo.), misleading (Hold on-that's the same DVD player they released three months ago!), or just confusing (So . . . what's it do?). But separating the hype from the authentic goes with the territory when you're a card-carrying member of the skeptical press. With that in mind, and one or two grains of salt in hand, I present a list of my personal Bests for CES 2003. Best Show Stealer: Drew Barrymore. CES doesn't officially start for me until a true-blue celebrity shows up to give it some street cred. Kudos to Sony for bringing out Drew for Sony president Kunitake Ando's keynote speech on the first day. Sure, there was that slip when she admitted to being "obsessed with copying CDs" a few minutes after Ando had just emphasized Sony's commitment to copy protection, but we were too engrossed in the Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle trailer to notice. Best Way to Kill DVD-Audio: Let the DVD Entertainment Group plan the format's press event. Penciled in at the end of a long reception honoring the success of DVD-Video and the architects behind it, the brief mention of DVD-Audio was made more depressing by the sad statistics that went along with it. So the plan is to have 500 DVD-Audio titles by the end of the year, huh? Compared with how many zillion on CD? At least Sony and Philips had a party dedicated to the new releases on Super Audio CD, some of which (the Police, Bob Dylan) people might actually buy. Best Cloning Story: Never mind those crazy Dutch cultists-check out Audiovox's plug-and-play Sirius satellite radio tuner, which owners of Delphi's SkyFi XM tuner will think looks oddly familiar. . . . Best Spouse-Pleasing Development: The multiplication of wireless home-networking devices-both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but mainly Wi-Fi. The future would certainly be bright (and neat!) if it were wireless, but are people ready to talk about servers, clients, and hubs as if they were receivers, DVD players, and TVs? Best Eye-catching Product that Actually Did Something: A sleek 254-driver speaker array that simulates an entire surround-sound setup from a single panel. Want one of these? Pioneer sure hopes so-especially since the price tag is $40,000. Fits nicely under your plasma TV, Mr. Rockefeller. Best Product I Wish Was Real: OEL (organic electroluminescent) monitors. Think of the possibilities if you could just roll up your monitor and take it with you. Sony demo'd a prototype 24-inch OEL display, but you couldn't touch it. Maybe it's the only one they have? Best HDTV Development: High-definition personal video recorders, which were featured from more than one company, including the right ones-TiVo, EchoStar, and DirecTV. TV shows on tap at 1080i or 720p, just like Nostradamus predicted. Best Public-Relations Spin: Danielle Levitas's claim at the Recordable DVD Council's press conference that consumers' not being aware of the myriad DVD-recordable formats is a good thing because it means they won't get them confused. I doubt ignorance was ever that blissful. Best Wishes for the New Year: Or whatever.