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CES gadgets bringing the "Matrix" to life
by Staff Writers
Las Vegas (AFP) Jan 13, 2012

The annual Consumer Electronics Show ended Friday, leaving gadget lovers with visions of a "Matrix"-like world in which the Internet surrounds them no matter where they go.

Makers of everything from cars and refrigerators to televisions, smartphones and software pitched innovations heralding the arrival of connected lifestyles made possible by "smart" devices.

"The underlying driver at the show is that we will have screens on all types of devices connected to the Internet; it could be your refrigerator, your vacuum...," said lead analyst Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies.

"We are going to have a lot of screens in our lives and they will be connected."

Intel's move into the smartphone and tablet computer chip market at the show promised a near future in which mobile gadgets get more powerful and energy efficient, according to the analyst.

The US chip giant announced that it will move into the booming smartphone market with a China debut of a handset made by Chinese computer powerhouse Lenovo.

"The best of Intel computing is now coming to smartphones," California-based Intel's chief executive Paul Otellini said. "It is coming first to China, the largest market for smartphones in the world."

Lenovo introduced a K800 smartphone powered by an Intel processor and Google's Android software.

"You can't underestimate what the market will look like when Intel jumps into smartphones," Bajarin said. "The architecture core should allow them to make their chips very fast."

Faster chips translate into richer video viewing, smoother music listening, and slicker "apps" for anything from games to work.

Intel was also at the core of an onslaught of slim, light-weight laptop computers known as "ultrabooks."

New "ultrabooks" were shown off by a slew of consumer electronics titans including Acer, Asus, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba. A Lenovo "Yoga" ultrabook even boasted a bendable screen.

As in years past, televisions were among the stars of the show, with flat screens slimming down, synching to the Internet and delivering richer imagery.

A razor-thin television from LG Electronics was crowned best gadget at CES.

Throngs jockeyed for looks at LG's 55-inch (140-centimeter) TV set, which is just 0.16 inches (four millimeters) thick and uses OLED, or organic light-emitting diode, display technology.

OLED TVs do not require backlighting and feature better color contrast than standard flat-screen LEDs, and LG and another South Korean titan, Samsung, both wowed the crowds at CES with 55-inch models.

Television innovations ranged from improved 3D screens, which have failed to ignite the market, to technologies that let people control screens with gestures or spoken words.

People crowded the LG booth, dodging reflexively as soccer balls or other objects appeared to rocket toward them from a floor-to-ceiling wall of 3D television screens.

Microsoft, which has announced that this year's CES will be its last, saw products powered by its Windows software scoop up a couple of awards.

The Lumia 900 from Finland's Nokia was named best cellphone and the Envy 14 Spectre laptop from Hewlett-Packard was tapped as the best computer.

The Lumia 900, which runs on Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 operating system, is seen as Nokia's bid to break into a US smartphone market dominated by Apple's iPhone and handsets powered by Google's Android software.

"The real story at the show is catching up to Apple," Bajarin said. "Apple innovates and everyone else spends the next five years trying to catch up."

Ultrabooks take on Apple's MacBook Air laptops, while tablets and smartphones unveiled at the show will be battling the California company's mighty iPhones and iPads.

An Android-powered tablet computer from Taiwan's Asus, the Asus Memo 370T, was named best tablet at a show which featured dozens of new rivals to the iPad.

Apple does not attend the show, but its influence is clear and its employees check out the scene.

A gigantic iLounge area of the show floor was devoted to accessories for Apple products.

"We believe the industry has shifted from a battle of devices to a war of ecosystems," Nokia chief executive Stephen Elop said, in a clear reference to the exclusive ties between Apple's iTunes shop and its coveted gadgets. "Clearly there are strong contenders on the field in this war of ecosystems."

CES boasted an unprecedented 1.86 million square feet of show floor space, with the number of exhibitors hitting a record high of more than 3,100 at the 44-year-old gadget extravaganza.

The show held quirky gems including motorized shoes, jeweled headphones and an eco-friendly boom box from the son of Reggae legend Bob Marley.

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