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Stewart Wolpin

Stewart Wolpin has been writing about consumer electronics for more than 30 years and has attended more than 40 CESs (there used to be a summer show in Chicago). He is a judge for the Consumer Electronics Association Hall of Fame and writes the bios of the electees. He also has written on small stakes poker ("The Rules of Neighborhood Poker") and baseball ("Bums No More: The Championship Season of the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers").

 
CES starts next week, and already the hype machine has been turned to 11. Earlier this week, LG proudly announced it be showing off at its booth "the future of TV technology," "the world's largest OLED HDTV" at CES. Uh-huh. And Karolina Kurkova has promised me a date.
 
Wow, that was some year. A scintillating presidential election, a exciting London Summer Olympics, literally shocking developments in the electric car business, the problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, an astounding end to the Dark Knight trilogy and beginning of The Hobbit. It was a weird year in tech, too, especially compared to the yawn-worthy 2011, which will be remembered more for the death of Steve Jobs than any particular technology or gadget. With the improved economy, consumers were obviously willing to invest in new gear this year, and clearly unwilling to buy anything that even hinted at anything old. And that dissatisfaction with the old extended into several prominent boardrooms. So here's a review of what happened in the coming year (and good luck untangling that twisted tense syntax).
 
In a column earlier this week, my DVICE stablemate Raymond Wong posited that the Nokia Lumia 710 running Microsoft Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" and due to go on sale on January 11 from T-Mobile is the wrong phone with the wrong OS from the wrong carrier for Nokia and Microsoft to use as a fiundation to begin their comeback in the smartphone market. Sorry, Ray, I beg to differ. I think the Lumia is the right phone at the right price with the right carrier, or at least a necessary calculated risk by Microsoft and Nokia to make headway in a market dominated by iOS and Android. Oh, and the photo of the Lumia 710 accompanying Raymond's editorial? It's not a photo of the Lumia 710 T-Mobile will sell — there won't be an all-white version. Only an all-black and black with a white frame. But I digress.
 
You no doubt have seen stories in both the tech and the mainstream media about how Amazon is going to somehow correct the problems with its Kindle Fire tablet/e-reader. At the risk of Amazon proving me wrong about Fire a second time (more on the first time in a bit), I suggest that Fire, in its current form, can't be fixed. For instance, Amazon can't send out external volume control buttons to every Fire buyer. They can't move the bottom sleep switch so you don't keep hitting it accidentally while just balancing it in your hand. But to me, these are niggling issues. What Amazon won't be able to fix is the heightened expectations it raised in the months prior to anyone actually getting their hands on a Fire — especially in its supposed "revolutionary" Silk mobile Web browser, which turns out to be as revolutionary as a silk hankie.
 
Let's say you're a woman who finds herself in, as we used to say, a delicate condition — but, perhaps, she would rather not be in that delicate condition. Where's the first place you'd turn for advice? Your doctor? Your closest friend? Your parents? Your religious advisor? Planned Parenthood? No. Apparently, ACLU thinks the first place you'd turn for reproductive advice is — wait for it — Siri. But that's not the silliest part of this story.
 
Are you one of those geeks who has everything and is impossible to shop for? Then don't wait for your well-meaning loved ones to gift you some silly tie or pair of socks. Take the initiative and send out a list of desired gadgets — like this one. Tacky, maybe, but these dozen items are the always-tough-to-find (and perfect for these economic times) cool gizmos for less than $50.

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