CES 2008: Bill Gates, we'll miss you

We've taken a look at the happy winners and the sore losers of this year's CES. But amongst the also-rans there are a number of technologies that have shown rock-steady development. No round-up of the exhibition would be complete without doffing our hat to some of 2008's emerging trends.

Connecting devices

Many exhibitors have talked about connectivity this year. Audio-video equipment is better at connecting to web-based services and entertainment. There are more ways to stream content - often wirelessly and effortlessly - between devices. And so on.

There have been dozens of announcements along these lines. Any one announcement on its own isn't much cause for excitement, but put them together and a distinctive trend emerges. Confident steps are being taken by the hardware and software industries towards better interoperability between disparate CE and IT devices. Meanwhile, producers of news, information and entertainment are making concerted efforts to make their content available on all sorts of devices, from TVs to mobile phones.

There's still a bit of a hill to climb, but at least the 'connected home' is no longer a rich man's pipe dream.

Elsewhere, improvements in storage are making the keeping and moving of all that content a little easier. In memory cards we've seen SDHC pushed to its theoretical maximum capacity and performance, while SSD is starting to look like a viable alternative to HDD.

Finally there's a slew of new products (from the likes of Netgear and Belkin) offering dual-band 802.11n connectivity. Expect the 802.11n specification to be fully ratified later this year.

A focus on design

After so much emphasis on product and interface design this year we thought it appropriate to have a quick overview of the design highlights.

Its a rare thing nowadays, spotting a big screen with sharp, regular edges and bland matte finishes. Just about every TV on show at CES demonstrated some semblance of style. If we have to pick one brand - and its a tough call - it would have to be LG's new line of LCDs with their luscious red and black coating. The LG60, LG70, LG75 and so on - see the photos.

We also have to give a shout out to Mitsubishi's "laser TV". The picture quality of this revamped DLP set looked absolutely sensational and we hope that this technology will be given a chance to make an impact on the market. But with the strength of LCD and plasma this year, we fear the final curtain is already being drawn over rear projection.

CES 2008 was heralded as a 'green CES', but it was nothing of the sort. A few nods towards environmental concerns, sure. But the event still had a carbon footprint the size of Nevada. Surprisingly the words 'iPhone killer' were hardly ushered, there were few new digital cameras, precious little on VoIP, and nothing commercially available in new battery technology either.

The thing that CES 2008 will be remembered for is Bill Gates's farewell keynote. The speech itself was instantly forgettable. But the hilarious pre-speech video will be a YouTube classic for years to come. Click here and weep. Bill, mate, we'll miss you.

But if anyone actually stole the show this year, it was Apple! Again! It wasn't anything big like the iPhone that stole the thunder this time, but a load of small announcements from iTunes pricing to new 8-core Mac Pros. And the rumour mill is already in overdrive about what's to come at MacWorld. Only Apple is capable of disrupting a show without actually being there.