The gadget lovers gathered in Las Vegas for CES.

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The gadget lovers gathered in Las Vegas for CES.

Consumer electronics show – the biggest display of new electronics – opened Thursday in Las Vegas. Morning tech guru Mario Armstrong and Ari Shapiro talked about some of the new products on display.

ARI SHAPIRO, host:

The tech industry’s biggest event of the year began in Las Vegas. Ces is a place where companies of all sizes show the latest products and skills for the next year. Early version of the tech guru Mario Armstrong was there, and he just came back from a sneak preview. Good morning.

Mario Armstrong: good morning, ali. How are you?

SHAPIRO: good. So it’s the end of a long day for you, it’s the beginning of the day for us.

ARMSTRONG: yes.

SHAPIRO: what are some of your highlights today? What’s the best thing you can see?

ARMSTRONG: you know, I really saw something exciting. One category that really caught my attention was the netbook category. Are you familiar with these?

SHAPIRO: it’s like a Kindle, the book you read on your handheld device?

ARMSTRONG: no, they’re bigger than the Kindle, but smaller than the average laptop. I mean, for all intents and purposes, these are laptops. I mean, it has a keyboard, it has a screen, but they’re lighter, and what really appeals to many people is the cost. They’re around $400, and your average laptop might be 7 or 800 or more.

SHAPIRO: so this is the computer that demoted the computer from the SUV to kia.

ARMSTRONG: that’s what – you know, that’s what this is. This reminds me of featuritis. I’m just looking at functional inflammation, as we’ve never done before. You know, this is the 80-20 rule. You adjust 80% of your fat and get 20% of your actual productivity, which I call the netbook.

SHAPIRO: so, what else do you expect to be important on this show?

ARMSTRONG: you know, I really see this convergence of the Internet now easier to access on our TV screens.

SHAPIRO: well, people have been talking about this for years, playing video games, using computers, watching TV, playing video, all of that in the same box.

ARMSTRONG: yes, but, you know, it’s not finished yet. I mean, you can do it, and in most cases, it’s very technical. If you want to try to connect your computer to a TV screen, yes, I mean, good luck. I mean, unless you have the built-in technical support of your home…

SHAPIRO: I can barely program my DVD player.

(laughter)

ARMSTRONG: a lot of people can relate to that. However, we all watch video on the Internet to some extent. This is a growing field. I see a young company — it’s a startup, it’s called Boxee, Boxee. I tell you, you use a normal remote, instead of a keyboard and mouse, turn on the TV, and don’t even know where video comes from.

SHAPIRO: wow.

ARMSTRONG: probably from a website or from a wireless network. You really don’t know. You really don’t care. The fact that it was so simple really disappointed me. The last thing about it, Ari, is its social media background.

SHAPIRO: oh, like the Internet, Facebook and MySpace, what about this?

ARMSTRONG: you see. I mean, it has a recommendation engine. So I can make you one of my friends, and I can see, oh, you know, what are you watching tonight? Or, better yet, you can recommend to me, hey, Mario, I saw this TV show. I think you’ll like it.

SHAPIRO: cool. I know that something that looks very simple attracts a lot of people.

ARMSTRONG: a lot of people. It’s called Powermat, created by Israeli companies. It allows you to charge a device without wires.

SHAPIRO: how does that work?

ARMSTRONG: so you pick up your phone, or you pick up your MP3 player, and you basically put the device on the mat, which is probably the size of the mouse pad or bigger than that. You don’t need to insert anything. You just need to put down the device, which USES its own built-in technology to recharge the device.

SHAPIRO: can I use my phone now, or do I need more technical innovation to make it more popular?

ARMSTRONG: yes, I think they’re trying to create a standard, so you need some extra connections. Now, what they’re showing is what looks like a magnet, basically sticking to the back of an existing device. But I think if they can create the Powermat standard, then the manufacturer will create the specification in the device before they leave the device.

SHAPIRO: Mario Armstrong is a regular technology commentator for Morning Edition. He also hosts the digital cafe on the Baltimore public radio’s WYPR. Thank you, Mario.

ARMSTRONG: hi, I appreciate it. Take care of yourself.

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