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Sin City and the Forbidden Fruit: Apple dominates CES by its very absence

By on 24 May 2012 in Gadgets

Sin City and the Forbidden Fruit: Apple dominates CES by its very absence
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The last time we penned a few words about Apple, we wrote of the ubiquity and all-conquering superiority of its products. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Nevada desert in early January as Las Vegas hosts the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

So obsessed is the industry with out-doing Apple that, even though the Cupertino-based firm doesn’t exhibit at CES, almost any product announced there is instantly compared to its Apple counterpart – whether real or rumoured.

This year was no exception.

Beating iTV

Ever since Steve Jobs was quoted as saying that he’d “finally cracked it” when talking about the TV in Walter Isaacson’s biography, gadget lovers and Apple competitors the world over have been obsessed with the notion of evolving the humble television set into a ‘smart’ TV and – crucially – how Jobs was planning to do it.

Leading the pack at CES was undoubtedly the Korean juggernaut Samsung (one of Apple’s biggest suppliers as well as, perversely, its most frequent legal opponent in patent disputes worldwide.) The firm announced its new range of SMART TVs. Designed squarely to compete with a product that – though widely rumoured – Apple has so far denied it is even working on: the iTV.

The Koreans summarise what makes their Smart TV special with characteristic jargon: “Smart Interaction, Smart Content, and Smart Evolution.” What this means in simple terms is that you’ll be able to ditch your remote and instead have the TV recognise your face and respond to your voice or gestures; that you’ll be able to browse the web, share photos, use apps like Angry Birds, as well as watching programs and movies – and do so either at home or on other internet-enabled devices while out and about; and that your TV’s capabilities will continue to be enhanced in years to come through an easy to replace microchip. Bottom-line? Samsung may well finally have stolen a march on Apple with these sets. They’re elegant, stylish bits of kit indeed.

Fellow Korean giant LG was following similar lines when it unveiled its Magic Remote. As the name implies, this is a TV remote with a little dash of ‘special’: it recognises your gestures and your voice then translates them into instructions for your TV. Nuance – the same company that created Siri, Apple’s voice recognition technology – provides the clever bits that enable this little wand to understand what you’re saying. Say “Mad Men” and Don Draper will be drinking and philandering before you in no time at all. Clever and, unlike iTV, available today.

Chasing the iPhone

Putting rumours aside, the most iconic Apple product remains the iPhone and, since it debuted in 2007, no one has really come close to matching its killer combination of peerless industrial design and slick, intuitive software.

Until now that is. CES 2012 saw Nokia partner up with Microsoft to finally deliver some credible competition to the iPhone: the Nokia Lumia 900.

Windows Phone is Microsoft’s ‘redesigned from the ground up’ new operating system for phones and – to put it bluntly – it’s well on its way to beating the iPhone at its own game: easy to use, full of bright ideas (particularly in the area of social media integration) and feeling genuinely fresh, Window Phone is a mobile OS straight out of the top drawer. What makes the Lumia 900 such a special device is that it mates Windows Phone with class-leading Nokia hardware: a gorgeous 4.3 inch screen with 800 by 480 pixels, a sharp 8 megapixel camera with 28mm f/2.2 Carl Leiss optics and the same rock-solid yet tactile polycarbonate body that made the Lumia 800 and N9 so desirable.

For the time being, the Nokia Lumia 900 is only available in the States on AT&T but expect to see regional variations hit shelves worldwide later in the year. As its executive team stares at depressing revenue charts, Nokia will be hoping its new phone is snapped up in large numbers. As the only device we’d currently consider as an alternative to our iPhone, it deserves to be.

Can’t beat ‘em? Join ‘em

Of course, CES isn’t all about trying to beat Apple. Many companies are offering up great products to complement Cupertino’s locust-like army of iPods, iPads and iPhones.

Most impressive amongst those at the show was the Parrot Zik headset. Bluetooth-enabled and touch-activated (glide your finger up and down either side to adjust the volume, forward and back to browse through your playlist), the Zik comes with active-noise cancellation, NFC (to enable it to pair easily with other sound sources) and the ability to detect when you take it off your head (and cleverly pause your music accordingly.) The Zik is reassuringly over-featured but the real draw is how gorgeous it looks. Its curvaceous design blending synthetic leather pads with soft-touch coated ear cups is simply stunning.

The Zik ships later this year. No pricing has yet been announced.

In the end as it was in the beginning…

Whether second guessing Apple’s unannounced products or cunningly trying to jump on its bandwagon, the one thing exhibitors in Sin City can’t seem to do is ignore the Forbidden Fruit.

Article

Sin City and the Forbidden Fruit: Apple dominates CES by its very absence

So obsessed is the industry with out-doing Apple that, even though the Cupertino-based firm doesn’t exhibit at CES, almost any product announced there is instantly compared to its Apple counterpart – whether real or rumoured.
This year was no exception.

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Our editor-in-chief, the self-proclaimed "greatest wit, raconteur and bon vivant of our age", borders on delusional. Over the years, the fool has squandered more money on fast cars, Swiss watches and electronic gadgetry of all kinds than he – or Mrs Fool – cares to remember. Come nightfall, he can invariably be found stumbling out of Dukes mumbling “just one more Martini; I could have handled just one mmmmm… [thud!]”

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