A year ago I was had just begun blogging for Weblogs Inc's PVR Wire when I hopped on a train from Princeton to New York to spend a day at Digital Life, the miniscule East Coast version of CES. I wandered around for a while, got to see a handful of cool products that I hadn't seen up close before, wrote a few blog posts and did a few interviews. I expect to do the same tomorrow when Digital Life 2007 opens. Except now I live in Brooklyn, so my commute will be shorter.
But this evening I stopped by the ShowStoppers event first, and got a sneak peek at a few products which I've been writing up for Download Squad and TV Squad.
Overall I was pretty underwhelmed with the amount of new hardware and software companies were showing off. That's not too surprising. Change is incremental, and when you spend your days writing about new products and services, it's hard to be impressed by anything that stops short of revolutionary.
The thing that did surprise me the most was a little thing. The USB thumb drive I was handed when I signed in at the registration desk. Last year, I picked up a similar drive at Digital Life. It was 64MB. Large enough to store a few documents, but too small to be really useful for much more than that.
At ShowStoppers, they gave me a 512MB drive. More than 1/5th of the space is already filled up with promotional materials for the companies showing their wares, you know, so it's not just swag, it's also about as useful as PR materials get. I'd much rather have a thumb drive filled with JPG and PDF documents than folders and folders filled with dead trees.
So this is my takeaway point. Technology moves at an incremental pace, and the new laptops, cellphones, and software look a lot like the new items launched last week, and the week before. But if you take a longer view, things do change pretty rapidly. Last year, companies could afford to give away a 64MB flash drive as a promotional tool. This year, it's 512MB.
Disclaimer: It's also possible that the 512MB drive this year cost more than the 64MB drive last year, and that the price is being written off as the cost of PR. But I don't think that's the case.