New Year Means New Gadgets

Happy New Year! A new year means new gadgets, and by the time this publishes I will be on a plane to cover this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2012 to bring you the latest and greatest in the world of technology. Below are some highlights of what we can expect this year.

The first thing to note is that this is the last year that Microsoft will be at CES. That is BIG news considering CES is the largest tech show of the year and Microsoft is always one of the anchors. It will be interesting to see what it will bring to the table to exit the CES scene with a bang.

Despite Microsoft’s withdrawal from future shows, this year is still expected to draw a large number of attendees as 149,000 registered (about the same as last year, and just a few thousand off from the record-setting 152,000 in 2006). CES will have about 2,700 exhibitors that will occupy more than 1.8 million square feet of space.

Typically, CES is known for the big mainstream companies, but this year it is rolling out the red carpet for a range of startup companies, and the area will be labeled “Eureka Park.” I’m looking forward to what these 80-plus young companies have to offer. I’m guessing many of these smaller new businesses will have some car tech car infotainment, connectivity and safety enhancements also are on the rise.

Lastly, 2011 was definitely the year of the tablet, but I think this year it will be the ultrabook. In case you don’t know what an ultrabook is, it’s a term that Intel came up with that refers to an ultraportable, lightweight highend laptop (such as a MacBook Air). Ultrabooks are typically 13, 14 or 15 inches, so I expect to see a whole bunch of them from a variety of companies.

Click Chick’s Mobile App of the Week: Waze

The community-based traffic app Waze has been around for a couple of years, but with its recent redesign and ever-growing user base, it’s even more useful and fun to use. Available for your iPhone/iPad or Android device, you can view and share real-time traffic information with nearby Wazers. Since you can link it to your Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare accounts, the social aspect of Waze sets it apart from other traffic/navigation based apps.

The user interface is somewhat minimalistic yet effective to provide a safe method for a quick glance at the screen. There are big buttons you can easily push to view reports Navigate, Reports, My Waze, Share, etc. for the Menu. Here you can see live community-contributed traffic information and road reports, and receive notifications when you’re approaching heavy traffic, road hazards or speed traps. Then, when you hit the button on the bottom right, you’ll see the Report menu with more big buttons Traffic jam, Police, Accident, Hazard, Pave, Check-in and more. If you can do it safely, you can take a picture (I wouldn’t even attempt this unless someone else was driving or if I was stuck in very heavy traffic).

In addition, you can use Waze as a GPS. Start Wazing for free from Apple’s iTunes Store or the Android Market.