postheadericon TECH TALK: The Non-Report on CES 2011, and on Things More Relevant...

I started to write this week’s column on CES 2011, the largest American consumer electronics show put on each year in the swinging town of Las Vegas Nevada, and featuring such IT moguls like MS CEO Steve Balmer and Cisco CEO John Chambers as keynote speakers, but I started to bore myself to tears just typing out the review. After all, how relevant is the Ford’s new electric car to the average Nepali?

For example, the announcement of the Blackberry PlayBook, an iPad-like tablet targeted at corporate wonks, won’t excite Nepali businesses still using paper records and ancient desktops to conduct business, will it? And who needs a vegetable scale in a Nepali kitchen that runs off an iPod and an app from the iTunes Store?

And I could be wrong, but will a new electric car work in KTM where the hours of power per day is dwindling down to just a few? Likewise, LG’s announcement of smart refrigerators that sport LCD displays and internet connections for tweeting recipes probably won’t excite anyone at all in the New Nepal, no matter how new that may be.

So for me, discussing the announcements (mostly a slew of new Android phones and iPhone cases / docks) just seems irrelevant in light of our inability to keep a simple dumbphone charged during the current loadshedding schedule. However, being at a large trade show like CES can be fun, as you would get to see celebs like Lady Ga Ga introduce a new Polaroid camera.

But what I remember about American trade shows is that they are great places to fake work while all you are really doing is collecting squishy toys, pens, coffee cups, and t-shirts handed out at all the exhibition booths. At least at CAN, Nepal’s version of CES, you get to take home something useful – like the latest model of invertor.

During CAN 2006, I actually bought a ProView Galaxy inverter at a substantial discount, and it’s still humming to this day. Unlike the Hyundai IntellyU UPS/Inverter (which I consider a piece of junk), which broke down a few days after the warranty expired, and even after repair, will now only power a couple of 14-watt light bulks for a few hours using it’s two huge 180 Ah Hyundai batteries.

So as far as consumer electronics go, we don’t need new iPad slipcases or Internet connected refrigerators as much as we need electronics that power all these gadgets. Either that, or we need battery-operated devices that charge in an hour, and last for 18 or more.

I was thinking the other day that a flat screen TV with built-in laptop-like battery might be marketable in Nepal, but then I remembered that the cable companies don’t provide full service during heavy loadshedding periods. So even if you have power for your TV, you can only watch an electronic snowstorm.

“Just get HOME TV!” you say, as this new satellite service is not powered by cable relays along the route, but instead just beams the signal down from space, directly to a set-top box. Clearly this is the wave of the future, but as of today, I can’t recommend this service for two reasons: you can only have one dish per TV set, and the channel selection is no better then say Jawakhel Cable. Why HOME TV only rolled out 80-odd channels is anyone’s guess, as there are clearly more channels in space, and those should be offered to us as well.

And while I am TV kvetching, let me just ask, “Where are the internet-connected TVs that others in the world enjoy?” Wouldn’t it be cool to have a Nepali-priced Hula-like service, where you could order movies and shows on demand for under a buck? Oh wait, that would require a broadband Internet connection faster then what most of us have at the moment...ok folks, just continue to get your knockoff DVDs down at the market for just Nrs. 30.

However, it does seem extremely silly in this day and age to even be messing with DVDs that just play once - if you are lucky. Many of my pals are telling me those Chinese portable DVD players are grand when the lights go out, but I just can’t wrap my head around the economics...why not just use your laptop?

But the bigger question really is: why are we all sitting in the dark, huddled around small screens and battery-operated everything, when the rest of the world is bright and making everything “large.” It’s starting to piss me off, and making me think that I might as well go “Amish.”

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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