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The Best of CES

Once upon a time the International Consumer Electronics Show was a place to do business, a marketplace where the designers, manufacturers, distributors and buyers of electronics could meet to get their geek on.

Once upon a time the International Consumer Electronics Show was a place to do business, a marketplace where the designers, manufacturers, distributors and buyers of electronics could meet to get their geek on.

CES 2010, which took place in Las Vegas last week, has evolved into a different kind of animal. Designers still showed off their designs, manufacturers displayed their latest products, distributors put in their orders and geeks got their geek on, but the conference these days is really all about the media. Companies use CES to build buzz for new technologies and products that a tech-obsessed world - and its investors - will salivate over, counting down the days until they can get their hands on it.

Every major news outlet and tech publication, from the smallest blog to the biggest network, had a presence at CES 2010. While the major electronics companies earned the lion's share of stories, to the credit of the media a lot of small startups got a lot of attention as well. If your product is cool enough anybody can make the headlines.

Here's my own list of what I see as the biggest revelations of CES 2010.

Yahoo! Widget Magic - Far from going the way of the dodo, Yahoo! deserves a lot of credit for finding new markets to explore now that Google has taken over the search engine universe. Widget Magic is an application that runs widgets on Internet-ready televisions, allowing people to check up on the weather, read headlines, watch videos, stream photos from Flickr, follow stocks and bonds, shop and manage auctions on eBay, and do so much more.

Asus Eee Keyboard - I hate using a mouse and can't wait until every computer has a touch screen for doing the simple things like launching applications, moving files around, etc. Until that day there's the Asus Eee Keyboard, which includes a small touch screen on the side that you can use to do a lot of the tasks that your mouse used to do, like navigate through your music collection, call up applications, scrawl notes and diagrams, flip through your calendar application and more. This will need to be test-driven more, but it has a lot of potential.

Boxee - This was Linux's answer to the Windows Media PC, but it's so good that it's now going to be available for PCs, Macs and other systems. Turn your computer into a home media centre or connect your computer to your television to enjoy a lot of Internet content, from YouTube videos to Netflix to online music services. Not all of the services available on Boxee work in Canada yet (why Hulu, why?) but did I mention that it's free?

The Hava - This is still in development, but a program is coming down the pipe that lets you know what television shows your friends are watching online and to join in, chatting by text and possibly by voice as well. You could watch a football game with a college buddy halfway around the world, and have way more fun than sitting there alone and listening to those awful colour commentators.

3D Televisions - These debuted last year, but it seems that Panasonic has jumped off to an early start by showing off actual production models that will be available in stores in the near future.

Wireless Television - Intel used CES to introduce a new 'Wi-Di' processor that will allow people to wireless stream content from their computers to televisions, no cables required. Blu-ray HD quality video is not available yet, but fewer cables is always a good thing.

Eye-Fi - This technology isn't new either, although this was the first time it's been shown at CES. Basically an Eye-Fi is a Micro SD card with a wireless antenna built-in to automatically and wirelessly connect to your computer to download photos. You can also program your computer to automatically upload those photos to sites like Flickr and Picasa, creating something akin to photo blogging. Soon every SD card will have wireless.

Lenovo Idea Pad U1 - This is a touch screen tablet that converts to a laptop and vice-versa. Usually tablets and touch screen computers are disappointing but this product was voted the best computer of the show and reviewers are amazed how well it works.