The coolest thing at CES

Within the first few hours of arriving at CES, I encountered three different manufacturers who made unsolicited offers to build a device for me or my company. Or any company I could recommend.

What kind of device? Apparently, it doesn’t matter. “You tell us the specifications,” said the representative of one Chinese ODM, “And we will build exactly what you want in the quantity that you specify. No upfront investment, no inventory risk.” Does that sound like a deal that’s too good to be true? It probably is.

But that won’t stop some big media companies from taking the bait. Brace yourselves for a flood of bespoke gizmos sporting major media brands. Innovation or desperation? Soon you’ll see content companies hawking branded hardware, aided and abetted by device manufacturers who face certain death by commodization.

The best illustration of this fad is the proliferation of e-book readers, widely noted in the blogosphere. The components for these devices are almost all identical, so the ODMs are eager to find partners who can help them differentiate.

When the cost of manufacturing is so low, you might expect to see some radical experimentation with form factor. That can lead to good things. Check this out: Buried in the middle of this video from New York Times is a glimpse of the coolest device that I saw at CES: Lenovo’s new dual screen netbook. When you don’t need the keypad, you can pop the screen out for a small portable tablet. Finally.

Posted via email from Robert’s posterous