LAS VEGAS -- It was just Saturday in Las Vegas. The Consumer Electronics Show hadn't even started officially yet, but already it was clear that "digital home strategy for 2008" was going to be a phrase I'm going to get really tired of by next Thursday. There will be miles of exhibit aisles, thousands of newer-than-new products, and unlimited digital home strategies. I'm going to get one, too, just in self-defense.The common thread in many of these strategies seems to be the companies' conclusion that people are getting up from their computers and moving into the living room, or the kitchen, or the bedroom, and they want to take what the PC does with them -- its ability to communicate wirelessly, capture and store files, keep track of schedules and alarms. Maybe you should go check your PC right now -- the functions it performs may already be leaking into other devices around your house.
For example, take Logitech, the computer company. It still claims to be the world's leading maker of computer mice. But what does a mouse morph into when it gets separated from its computer?
Apparently the answer is a remote control. Logitech unveiled five new products at a posh lunch for the press on Saturday. Three of them were remote controls, or included a remote. Only one included a mouse. (And it wasn't a brand-new product, but a pairing of Logitech's MX Revolution Bluetooth mouse, which has some nifty features like superfast scrolling and integration with Windows Vista UI features like the Flip 3D menu, Gadgets, and Zoom, with a wireless keyboard that has an integrated LCD to display song titles, the results from its integrated calculator, date and time, and message notifications.)
The new Harmony universal remote control has an impressive 40 buttons. The Squeezebox Duet is a controller/receiver combination that streams music from the Internet to powered speakers around the house via your home network -- one controller can work with multiple receivers. The Z Cinema Surround Sound System claims to do front-and-back audio from only two satellite speakers and a subwoofer -- and its remote control also includes Windows Media Center features. The diNovo remote is for those of you who have already connected your PC to your flat-screen TV in the family room and want something more stylish than a 102-key keyboard and a long cable to control it from the couch -- the diNovo looks like a tiny clamshell laptop with no display screen, just a lid that keeps it looking stylish on the coffee table.
Logitech's lunch was just the first. The digital home strategies already are piling up -- Sling Media is talking up its SlingCatcher, a sort of reverse SlingBox that streams Web content to a TV set (it was announced a year ago at CES, but has been a while reaching the retail shelves). Other companies will jump on the bandwagon this week -- there's a "NextGen Home" pavilion to go see, and already I've picked up a press kit for a digital paper towel dispenser.
Our homes are in the marketing crosshairs. Prepare for evasive action.