CES has attendees seeing stars

LAS VEGAS – Internet portal Yahoo! doesn’t make digital gear, so some people attending the Consumer Electronics Show here might have decided it was safe to skip Friday’s 9 a.m. keynote from CEO Terry Semel.

However, the company decided it had to make a big splash to get its message out and went to Hollywood.

Actor Tom Cruise and comedienne Ellen DeDeneres came on stage to help Semel announce Yahoo! Go services, an architecting of the portal that will allow it to be displayed on many devices, including cellphones and televisions. Designed to more easily access e-mail and content anywhere, Semel said Go! Would do a number of tricks, such as programming a TiVO set-top recorder remotely from a handheld, though initially in the U.S. only.

DeGeneres did a five-minute routine on the trouble with gadgets (the only worthwhile invention, she suggested, was the popcorn button on a microwave), while Cruise introduced a trailer – which was supposed to be played on a Yahoo! Go -equipped TV — with bone-shaking explosions for the upcoming Mission Impossible: 3. (“Play it again!” someone yelled. So they did.)

It was the latest in a number of Hollywood stars making appearances on behalf of IT companies here. On Thursday, actors Morgan Freeman, Tom Hanks, Danny DeVito and several directors behind the new ClickStar online movie service appeared with Intel CEO Paul Otellini to back his presentation on Intel’s Viiv platform for TV set-top boxes.

Yahoo! has struck deal a deal with Intel to ensure its portal can be better seen on screens powered by Viiv devices, as well as partnerships with Nokia and Motorola so Yahoo! Go works on their phones. Yahoo! Go Mobile can detect what devices the user is on and adapts its screen.

Among other features, Go users can set up e-mail so that messages from any service can flow into one Yahoo inbox. When a user shoots an image with a cameraphone, Yahoo! Go immediately prepares it for uploading to the Web.

Yahoo! Go TV is made for home entertainment units running Microsoft’s Windows XP Media Centre Edition, again giving large screen users easy access to e-mail and Web content through Yahoo.

All this, of course, is to help draw eyeballs to Yahoo!, which, like most portals, does deals with content providers to make it a  homing device for Web surfers. Semel (who had a video endorsement from Donald Trump, whose TV show The Apprentice has a Yahoo! tie-in) said his message here was to media creators.

“Yahoo doesn’t aspire to make gadgets,” he told the audience in inviting them to make deals with the portal. “Our aim is to partner with you.”

“Yahoo! is a great opportunity for content providers and we want to help owners further monetize their  content.”

On Thursday, Paul Otellini  introduced Intel’s new dual core-based products. Centrino Duo devices will run applications designed for the chip up to 65 per cent faster than the single-core version. Laptops running the chip will use 28 per cent less power than standard Centrino notebooks, giving users up to one hour of extra battery life. 

Among the manufacturers building around Centrino Duo are LG, Toshiba, Samsung and Lenovo, many of which are debuting here.

Michael Dell of Dell Inc. did a sneak preview for Otellini of an upcoming laptop with a 20-inch screen, so valuable that he took it with him when he left the stage. (When Otellini expressed interest in it, Dell said it was too early to order one, but suggested Otellini buy a Dell Inspiron notebook. In fact, he added, the Intel executive should get both.. “Can you get me a deal?” asked Otellini? “Can you give me a deal?” Dell asked the chipmaker, his only supplier, to great laughter.)

Lenovo showed its X60S ultraportable, which has a 12.1-inch XGA screen, a choice of serial ATA hard drives and a 1.67GH Centrino Duo processors that weighs as little as 2.7 lbs, depending on configuration. With a long-life battery a user can get up to 8 hours of performance, said Jeff Samitt, Lenovo’s worldwide X-series marketing manager.

It will cost US$1,899, but by the end of the month there will be more versions with “more aggressive pricing,” Samitt said.

Intel, which is behind AMD in launching its dual-core chips, said the format will be wildly popular. Core Duo chips are three times smaller than Pentium chips but more powerful, he said. It expects to ship 1 million of the chips in three weeks. The first Pentium chip took a year to reach that sales mark.

As ITBusiness.ca went to press Friday afternoon, Google’s Larry Page was scheduled to match Semel’s keynote with one of his own.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer. Former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, Howard has written for several of ITWC's sister publications, including ITBusiness.ca. Before arriving at ITWC he served as a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times.

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