The day Microsoft, Palm and Sony upstage Apple is a strange day indeed. With MacWorld offering little more than an expensive laptop upgrade, however, it was left to CES—a show often buried by Cupertino cool—to bring new toys to 2009's table.
Apple will be back in force, with new ideas and shiny new things, but why wait? Aren't you sick of spec bumps that never come? It's time to change back—and for the first time in ages, you can do it in style.
It's smaller than the iPhone, has a fantastic new interface, and it runs linux. There'll be an AppStore anyone can get into, top-knotch integration with Facebook and Gmail, and a multitouch display. Even the menu bar caused CES attendees to gape like beached whales. With a hardware keyboard and cut and paste, the mobile novelist brigade will be happy, too.
And it's by Palm! Palm!
After the public relations abattoir of Windows Vista, the sequel has a lot riding on it. First indications are that Microsoft might have nailed it: the beta edition is simpler, swifter and sleeker than its irritating predecessor. Available free to the public until August, the unfinished and unsupported software weds XP's snappiness with Vista's eye candy.
Just don't expect it to work perfectly, O.K.? Caveat downloador.
In the Vaio P "lifestyle" computer, Sony's created the high-end mini-notebook that Apple hasn't. Early reviews paint it as a masterpiece, beautifully designed and small enough to slip into a jacket pocket.
It also has a decent keyboard, a high-definition display, and a fast-booting linux mode. Performance isn't too hot, mind, and the $900 tag is only cheap by Sony standards. Nonetheless, it's easily the coolest laptop on the block.
HP Mini 2140 netbook
Want a real netbook that costs half the price of Sony's little wonder? HP's Mini 2140 has a 10-inch 16:9 screen with 768 lines (most netbooks have only 600), 2GB of RAM. It runs Windows Vista, which you will promptly remove, and was cut to a surprisingly Mac-esque design. Best of all? It's just $500.
Just try not to think about where the trackpad buttons are.
What do we know about Dell's new 13-inch laptop? Not much, except for the fact that it's not out yet and doesn't have a release date.
What we do know is that it's a monolith made of pure Kubrickstone, surface-textured by a million years of thrashing by an army of robot monkeys armed with diamond-tipped cats o' nine tails.
Is it any good? Haven't a clue: they wouldn't let us touch its mockup/prototype. But it's got looks to match the unibody MacBooks: no mean feat for the company that had 250 different words for beige.
With the iMac already looking underfeatured compared to rival machines from HP, Dell and Sony, Lenovo's IdeaCenter 600 comes along to kick the whole lot back into 2008, where they belong.
Now, it has its flaws. The Wii-like remote wasn't much fun. And the design? It looks great from the front, but weird from behind: Lenovo clearly imagines use as a television.
But look at the hardware behind that 21.5 display: 2GB of RAM, Blu-ray disk, a TV tuner, 6-in-one card reader, dolby digital audio and 6 USB ports.There's even an optional 512MB DirectX 10 video card: it can game like no iMac in this universe.
To quote m'colleague Joel: "The junk down on the trunk is appealing."
Sony Walkman X-1000
It's sleeker than the iPod Touch, and it's got a brighter OLED touchscreen display and in-built noise cancellation. It's beautiful and black, with a strange texture that looks like a fancy tombstone.
Thanks to Apple itself, defection is easy, too: pay the DRM kill fee in iTunes and your hitherto iPod-locked collection is free. The only question: it is worth paying extra, when the Walkman's price tag will surely make the iPod Touch look like a stocking stuffer?
So it's not as pretty as Apple TV. It looks like the routers that spawned it. It's not very powerful, either, requiring saved media to be stored on an external USB drive. But Netgear's Internet TV Player handles standard-def TV streaming in any format known to man and is absolutely tiny: little larger than a deck of cards. Dangle it off the back of your TV set for a solution to a problem you already have: watching internet junk like YouTube on a big TV. Too proletarian? Get Boxee then, media snob!
Weird as all hell and strange too, Asus's Eee Keyboard contains a home theater PC and an LCD display. Unlike most demented modern attempts at that oldschool computer-in-the-keyboard combo, it even looks cool.
It's as if Commodore Amiga 500's spirit was reaching up from 1988, to clutch at the Mac's throat one final time. [Photo: Matt Buchanan/Gizmodo]