CES 2009: All the news

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has seen IT PRO and its sister sites reporting on a wide and varied selection of news. Whether it is a new operating system you want, or a new watch phone, then this show appears to have it all.

Skype will now be available on any mobile phone the VoIP firm announced at the show. The Skype Lite Java application translates calls to a local number, and then sends them over the internet, meaning users will actually send very little data over networks. Still, Skype warned that people should have an unlimited data plan when using the java app, to avoid racking up huge bills.

Greenpeace used CES to launch another green tech report. It lambasted mobile phone manufacturers for their "life cycle policy," saying the 18-month average lifespan is made worse by marketing campaigns encouraging consumers to upgrade.

Casey Harrell, the report's author, told PC Pro: "We don't want green products, we want green products to be the products."

Asus is looking to follow up its popular Eee PC lineup with a folding laptop called the Origami. Not only can the device be folded up to save space, it can be laid out completely flat, allowing for a better keyboard angle. The Origami PC will have an opaque touchscreen and the devices will communicate wirelessly with each other, so information can be shared across the screens. While still in development, Asus said it is serious about releasing such a product.

HP was back to launch the first touchscreen PC aimed at the business market. Already a tried and tested technology, the HP dx9000 TouchSmart Business PC is based on the same touch interface HP developed on top of Microsoft Windows that was used in the home PC range it launched in June, and the firm expects it to do well.

"There is untapped potential for touch technology in the business marketplace to engage users in a way that has never been done before," said Alan Reed, vice president and general manager of HP's business desktops division - presumably as he jabbed a rarely idle finger in the direction of the assembled journalists.

In a bid to tackle the losses it has no doubt felt from sales of both Apple and BlackBerry devices, mobile firm Palm has unleashed a revamped version of its mobile operating system. It might even have a secret weapon in its arsenal as the new operating system was developed under the watch of former Apple executive Jon Rubenstein, who helped create the iPod.

As well as this, the firm previewed its Pre smartphone, which boasts the current must-have feature, a touchscreen, as well as GPS, Wi-Fi and a slide out keyboard. Over at sister mag Mobile Computer Magazine it was very well received. So far all we know is that it is coming out in the US, and on just one network, and although we are no experts, we think that this is sure to have an effect on sales. SSDs are the talk of Kingston town, as the memory manufacturer has finally entered the solid state disk market with two drives that it said were the best performing on the market. "We did a lot of research before entering the [SSD] market," Jim Selby, Kingston's European product manger told IT PRO. "SSDs have been around for 18 months now, but it's taken this long for us to be comfortable with them."

Wow, how long does it take them to break in a new pair of shoes? The two new drives are the SSDNow E Series and the SSDnow M Series and are based on Intel's SSD designs. Sister title PC Pro has body-popped its way through a huge amount of gadgets based on Google's Android, including the Movit Mini tablet, which is small in size, and sadly, memory. However, it will be cheaper than the iPod Touch and does more.

The other Pro guys also got to look at Samsung's new 3D display monitors, one of which - the 22in - works with Nvidia 3D vision graphics cards to convert around 350 games to stereoscopic 3D, without any special patches. Ah, gaming, we were struggling to think of a good use for online, high quality, moving, 3D images.

Microsoft made perhaps one of the biggest splashes at the event when Steve Balmer announced details of the hotly-awaited Windows 7. In a packed presentation, Balmer said that for some lucky punters specifically MSDN, TechBeta and TechNet customers the beta of the operating system was available now. The rest of the world would have to wait until 9 January.

Those already frustrated with its predecessor Windows Vista will be pleased to read that Ballmer described Windows 7 as the "best version of Windows ever", and added that it is expected to be finished by the end of this year, or 2010 at the latest. Click here to read our first look review of the beta.

Hewlett Packard (HP) did its best to spoil the CES party, making a number of announcements before the start of the show. A new netbook from the firm, the HP Mini 2140, will cost approx 340, has a 10.1-inch screen and a keyboard that is 92 per cent of the size of a full-size model. The device is pitched at the enterprise market, has sturdy keys and will be launched with a series of USB accessories, including a docking station, speakers and external optical drive.

HP also announced two laptops, the Pavilion dv2 which has a 12.2-inch screen, runs AMD's Athlon processor, and weighs 3.8 pounds and the dv3, which runs AMD's Turion processor, and weighs 4.3 pounds. MSI was never going to let any other firm have all the netbook glory and used CES to launch a hybrid device that boasts two types of storage. The use of both hard disk and solid state disk is designed to improve performance, the firm said, and the MSI Wind U115 has the operating system installed on a SSD, leaving the hard disk for file storage.

Not wanting to be outdone in the handheld market, consumer giant Sony showed off a stylish alternative to the rest of the pack.

"There are other ultra-portable computing solutions but what I'm about to produce trumps them all," announced president and chief operating officer of Sony America, Stan Glasgow, before explaining that the tiny VAIO P-series device could fit within both an envelope and a handbag a storage activity which, presumably, is a common practice at Sony headquarters. In the UK, the P Series will cost 849 on its release, which bucks the low-cost netbook trend.

Less glamorous, in thinking at least, is Motorola's recycled phone, which turns old plastic water bottles into a communications device. To be fair, the uninformed user may never know the difference, but the firm said that the W233 Renew was the first carbon neutral phone to be released. Although just the casing is made from the recycled plastic, the firm said that it would offset the carbon dioxide used in manufacturing, distribution and operation of the phone through investments in renewable energies.

Is the phone due to replace the watch, or vice versa? Someone at LG certainly thinks so, and the firm used the show to demonstrate a version of one. Dr Woo Paik, president and chief technology officer of LG in America, wore the watch in a demonstration, making a call and playing some music. We thought it was a bit chunky, but Paik described it as "something you'd expect to see in in a Bond film". Presumably he meant the really old ones. Before you rush off to install a lot of new plug sockets in order to prepare for the arrival of all these devices, we have one more release for you.

A firm called Powermat was revealed a number of mats designed to charge devices that are placed on their surfaces. The devices sound like they might save on clutter, but any gadgets need to be placed in a special case which contains a chip telling the device how much power to draw, and when the process is complete. That could mean a lot of special cases.

The company currently has cases for most mobile phone brands, including the iPhone and BlackBerrys, and expects to announce more this week.

For more CES coverage, see below for more of our coverage, or visit PC Pro here:

First Look Review: Windows 7 BetaPalm reveals 'Pre' smartphoneKingston enters SSD marketHP targets business with touchscreen PCSony launches tiny P-series portable PCsWindows 7 beta available tomorrowMotorola turns old bottles into new mobile