CES - Slouching toward Convergence 2.0

This year more than ever, even the coolest devices seem to be mere means to an end -- access to content and services whenever and wherever you want them.

"A true ultramobile experience is being able to put a device in a handbag, go have a picnic in the park, pull out your mobile device and easily surf the Web, said Alp Sezen, a sales director for Via Technologies based in Fremont, California. "Right now, you can't get that experience."

"It will take a year or two for the mobile wireless experience to get better," he said. "Wi-Max, and the opening up of Verizon's EV-DO network in the third quarter this year will help give a better experience for ultramobile users."

Sprint Nextel and its hardware partners, meanwhile, said they are on track with WiMax plans for the second quarter. Nokia and Samsung officials said they will have devices that will operate with WiMax in the second quarter, and Motorola said it is working on a device that will operate over Sprint's EV-DO (Evolution-Data Optimized) cellular network, Wi-Fi and WiMax.

For short-range wireless connectivity, devices incorporating the new 11n Wi-Fi standard were also on display. Netgear, for example, unveiled a two-radio 5GHz 802.11n for less than US$130. The company also released an 11n router with five Gigabit Ethernet ports.

One development that might end up making things easier for consumers puzzled by all vast array of gadgets and standards -- not all of which are interoperable -- was the decision by Warner Bros. to go with Blu-ray Disc, rather than HD DVD, for high-definition movies. The announcement, on the eve of the show, sparked thoughts that the high-definition format war may be over.

Of course, Akio Ozaka, head of Toshiba America Consumer Products, put up a brave front at a news conference. But Philips Consumer Electronics also threw its full support behind Blu-ray, adding a Blu-ray DVD player, the BDP7200 DVD to its product lineup.

(Additional reporting by Martyn Williams, Dan Nystedt, Elizabeth Montalbano, Agam Shah, and Nancy Gohring in Las Vegas.)

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