Las Vegas Bound
By the time you read this, I'll be lost in the endless halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center, where I'll be covering the Consumer Electronics Show for most of this week.
I flew out Sunday morning (luuuuv that 8:30 a.m. departure from Dulles!) and spent yesterday going to several vendors' press conferences, then attending the Bill Gates keynote keynote, the kickoff event for the past decade.
With my colleague Yuki Noguchi, I'll be reporting on the show for most waking hours of the next three days. Follow our coverage in print and online: I'll be taking part in our Post I.T. blog for the duration of CES.
Along the way, I'll also be hosting a Web chat at 11 a.m. EST Wednesday. Stop by if you can.
Meanwhile, in San Francisco...
CES will keep me busy, but it's not the only tech show happening this week. Apple's Macworld Expo begins Tuesday morning in San Francisco, an unfortunate bit of misscheduling by Apple and the Consumer Electronics Association that will keep me from covering it in person this time around. (Great job, guys! Really, just swell!)
But we'll be following that from afar as well. Look for Apple CEO Steve Jobs to unveil the shipping version of iTV, the wireless media receiver he announced in September that will most likely compete directly with a lot of the hardware we'll see at CES.
Jobs may also reveal a new iPod-esque phone. Or maybe not. The rumor sites have been buzzing in anticipation of an "iPhone" for months. If Jobs doesn't produce the hardware on stage at the Moscone Center, a few bloggers' brains may explode due to sheer frustration.
Back to my own work: Yesterday's column revisits the subject of free Web-mail services, comparing the offerings of the big three in this market: Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.
I could have (or should have) written this months ago. But I foolishly thought that if I waited long enough, at least one of these services would finish its beta testing. But after months of getting the runaround and taking copious notes on the workings of these services, I decided that there was no time like the present.
As a since-1998 Yahoo user, I realized I've grown sick of the service and liked Gmail much better. So I switched the bulk of my commercial correspondence (which includes: frequent-flyer updates from airlines, online stores' weekly-deal e-mails, newsletters from local shops and so on) to Gmail. These days, I only use the Yahoo account for Web site registrations and other situations where I don't expect to get any future mailings from the company.
(That leaves the personal domain and the home e-mail address for friends and family, my washpost.com address for work, and an alumni e-mail address for Facebook and my college's alumni association. The sad thing is, I've recently cut down the number of my accounts.)
Smart Watch Takes a Licking, Keeps on Ticking
Several weeks ago, a piece of junk mail arrived at home from Microsoft's MSN Direct subsidiary, inviting me to "Get a new Smart Watch--Free!"
If you just asked yourself "MSN Direct? Smart Watch? Huh?," you'd have plenty of company. MSN Direct is a service that Microsoft unveiled at the 2004 CES, delivering headlines, weather reports, stock quotes and other info-bits to computerized "Smart Watches."
I tried one of these Smart Watches back then and found it laughably bad: one of those "what were they thinking?!" experiences.
So now it's three years later, and Microsoft is still plugging away at this.
But the pitch in the mailing didn't reveal any changes to what I didn't like before. The watches are still too thick and bulky and the data service too unremarkable. (Here's a recent Seattle Times review of the Smart Watch, barely more positive than mine.)
I just can't figure out why Microsoft hasn't abandoned a product that seems so fundamentally unworkable. You have to admire this persistence, but still... What if the Smart Watch developers were reassigned to a product that people actually cared about?
Maybe that way Live Mail would have finished its beta testing by now.