Three storylines emerged from DigitalLife, the big gadget conference that took place this weekend at New York’s Javits Center: gaming, iPods, and HD-DVD players. These were served up by both an eclectic mix of small vendors promoting hardware and iPod accessories, and big companies promoting everything. As with any conference, there were a few fascinating and innovative demonstrations alongside the more typical offerings.
Friday’s keynote was delivered by Microsoft’s Peter Moore, who focused his speech on the Xbox 360, Microsoft’s next-generation gaming console scheduled to hit the market in November. The live demonstration of the system’s networking capabilities was impressive. For instance, you can plug in (via USB) different devices and access a variety of media, such as mp3s on an iPod or photos on a PlayStation Portable. A wireless connection to a PC even allows for watching movie files from the computer.
But on this front, Microsoft faces stiff competition from Sony, whose next console arrives in 2006. Gaming industry observers, such as Sam Kennedy, editor of 1up.com, are intrigued by the rivalry. “Sony will try to convince gamers to wait,” Kennedy commented. “Microsoft’s launch is critical, because if they don’t get the momentum right away, they’re going to fall behind.”
Meanwhile, countless companies at DigitalLife were devoted to iPod accessories — selling various kinds of docks, wires, bags and skins. It was truly a glut of choices. Do we really need five different kinds of iPod docks with speakers? Such diversity of wares clearly reveals the iPod’s stature in the scheme of things. Yet surprisingly, no representatives from Apple were there to promote their newest iPod.
Finally, Toshiba made an impact promoting its televisions and the first generation of HD-DVD players. Two different screens were displaying high-definition movie trailers. As we expected, the image is sharper than current-generation DVD. A Toshiba spokesperson said these first players would be available in the spring. Of course, HD-DVD’s competitor Blu-ray will be launching in the same window.
But it was the sheer dominance of video games at the conference that was truly noteworthy. It seemed like half of the space was devoted to gaming, with the other half split between various computer hardware (some with gaming applications), cellphones and other gadgets, or software and services (like VoIP or media management on the computer). With gaming now generating higher sales numbers than the movie theater box office, the digital industries are taking notice.
As for the rest of the gadgets, the capabilities of most of those shown were already known; still, it was good to finally see them in the flesh. Many people will be impressed with what’s to come in the holiday months.