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CES: Here's what wasn't on the show floor [Updated]

January 11, 2010 |  6:33 pm
With three halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center filled with an endless supply of e-readers, 3-D televisions and various accessories being pitched by carbon copies of the ShamWow guy, you'd think just about every worthwhile piece of technology had a booth somewhere at the Consumer Electronics Show last week.

You'd be wrong.

TelCentris executives Erik Bratt, from left, Bob Hertz and Kevin Hertz show off the VoxOx software. Credit: Mark Milian / Los Angeles Times

Smaller companies -- outfits looking to save money and ones whispering about products not quite ready for prime time -- held meetings with potential business associates and the occasional journalist who was willing to taxi to a hotel off the strip.

Had we not found our way to the Renaissance Hotel one morning, we wouldn't have gotten a glimpse of the unexpected video tricks that ActiveVideo is pulling off on cable boxes. There were a few other interesting products scattered around Las Vegas.

Over drinks Wednesday night, a three-person tag-team from the San Diego-based phone company TelCentris demoed the newest version of its VoxOx software. The service aggregates personal communications on your phones, social networks, e-mail and Web chats into a single interface. It's similar to Google Voice, but it tries to do everything.

The app can do so much that it's overwhelming at times. The company prides itself on the ability to tinker with every setting -- where a phone call or text message from each contact should get forwarded, whether your digital assistant should be male or female.

Just a few notables of the endless number of features include super cheap faxing, the ability to connect cheap Internet calls by texting the number you want to dial, a crank-calling soundboard and an open-development platform. There's a VoxOx iPhone app waiting for approval.

VoxOx is already capable of way more than what Google Voice offers -- the company considers Google's beta product among its closest competitors. But VoxOx hopes to quickly pull past Google Voice in other countries. "A lot of their stuff is U.S.-focused right now," said TelCentris Chief Technology Officer Kevin Hertz.

Santa Barbara music hardware maker Sonos Inc. managed to save a little dough by spending the week conducting private business rather than touting new products at the show. Thomas Cullen, vice president of market development, discussed over breakfast the company's cost-control efforts, which don't include blowing money on a CES booth.

Since the Sonos music streaming devices hit the market, the company has struggled with appealing to the mass market because its products were widely considered to be too expensive. Despite releasing the powerful, less-expensive S5 last year, it still struggles with that public perception.

Cullen cut costs by unbundling the high-tech Sonos remote with the device and pushing for users to install an iPhone or iPod Touch app instead. He got some push-back from colleagues who didn't want to kill their favorite remote. "You don't want to eat your own baby," Cullen said.

This year, Sonos plans to continue its run in popularity among an international audience and focus on ways to cut the price of speakers even further, "looking at $250 as an eventual price point," Cullen said.

Finally, if you were able to catch up with anyone at Chicago-based Wearable Inc. who was zipping around the show floor (we didn't and had to settle for a video demo today via Skype), you got a glimpse of the yet-to-be-released AirStash. It's a pocketable USB device with WiFi and an SD card slot that allows you to wirelessly transfer files.

Those files can be accessed from any computer or smartphone. Wearable Chief Executive Matthew Klapman expects photographers on the go will appreciate the ability to pop the SD card from a camera into the AirStash and quickly e-mail the file from a cellphone. All the software is Web-based, so there's no need to install files.

Klapman says the AirStash will be available soon for about the price of a month of iPhone service -- let's say less than $100.

[Corrected, Jan. 12, 2:30 p.m.: In the original version, the TelCentris chief executive was incorrectly named as Bryan Hertz. Also, the Wearable chief executive's last name was misspelled as Clapman.]

-- Mark Milian