LAS VEGAS--It was a close call at the Consumer Electronic Show's "Last Gadget Standing" competition on Saturday, but the Tapwave Zodiac's appealing combination of functionality and portability earned it top honors in the audience-voted event. A gaming console that doubles as a PDA, the Tapwave also views photos, shows movies and plays MP3s. Not bad for a device that barely weighs six ounces.
"It's a huge honor," said Tim Twerdahl, senior product manager for Tapwave. "We took a tremendous amount of time developing the product, and we're very proud that the audience rewarded our efforts."
Asked why he thought the Tapware drew such a strong reaction, Twerdahl said. "I think gaming really resonates with consumers right now, and there really hasn't been a device like this before to fill that need."
Ten contenders, ranging from a Motorola portable AOL Instant Messenger device to a digital camera key ring from Philips, were up for this year's title. Company representatives had four minutes each to make a case for why their product should be selected. Befitting a tech conference, audience approval then was carefully measured by an electronic applause meter to gauge the overall winner.
The Tapwave console, which retails for $299, narrowly beat out Delphi's XM SKYFi audio system--a satellite boom box that streams dozens of radio stations sans annoying commercials or static. "There's no downloading, there's no lawsuitsit's click and go!" said Delphi chief executive Lee Abrams during his presentation. "XM will do to FM what FM did to AM."
Powergrid Fitness garnered third place with its kiloWatt interactive game controller, which gives users a literal workout while they blast enemies or ride into curves onscreen. A force-resistant rod makes players work various muscle groups to use the controller. "Play longer, get stronger," was CEO Greg Meril's motto.
Honorable mention must go to Stan Kwong, brand manager at Creative Labs, who remained calm and collected as his Sound Blaster Wireless Music device failed to work during his demonstration. (His mike also gave out several times.) It was clear, though, that the problem was due to technical difficulties, and not any flaw in the product itself.
Technology guru Robin Raskin, who co-moderated the four-year-old event, noted that voters have been pretty on-target with picking technology with legs, citing previous LGS winners such as OnStar and the Roomba robot vacuum. "You should never underestimate the public's ability to sniff out a good product," she said. PC Magazine editor-in-chief Michael Miller, who also moderated, noticed a definite theme among this year's entrants. "What's so cool is that we're seeing devices that expand communication everywhereon the road, at the beach, and all over the house."
For more from CES 2004, check out CES.PCMag.Com.
Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in PC Magazine.