< I-Smell a Flop


Friday, January 09, 2009

BROOKE GLADSTONE: This is On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone.

BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. As we mentioned, this week thousands of gadget makers and gadget lovers journeyed to the great city of Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Each year some products at the CES change consumer electronics history. Others – don't. Take the 2001 flop, the iSmell, a product that, once connected to your computer, released a scent based on the website you were browsing. That one, as The New York Times reported this week, never made it past the prototype. So we wondered, what’s this year’s iSmell? Marguerite Reardon, a senior writer at CNET, is at the CES. She describes one likely contender.

MAGGIE REARDON: I'm not so sold on the LG Watch Phone. I kind of think that watches went out, you know, like in 1995.

BOB GARFIELD: That’s a watch that’s also a phone, like a Dick Tracy wrist radio.


BOB GARFIELD: Max Smart talked into his shoe -


BOB GARFIELD: - but that was 1966 technology. Why do you think that a watch phone won't take off?

MAGGIE REARDON: Well, I just think people have grown accustomed to not wearing watches, and we want our phones to do so much more now. You know, you can just pull out your cell phone, take a look at the time, but it also gets your email. You know, you can watch videos on it, get your music. And I think the LG phone does have an MP3 player on it, but it’s a tiny screen, and I just don't see it becoming hugely popular when the trend we're actually seeing is that people are really interested in smart phones, like the iPhone or the BlackBerry.

BOB GARFIELD: The cost of this item?

MAGGIE REARDON: It’s not available yet. They're saying, you know, later this year. This phone literally just came off the plane from Korea.

BOB GARFIELD: Any other non-starters? Anything else DOA?

MAGGIE REARDON: You know, I'm still not completely sold on 3-D TV. Panasonic is showing off some technology there, and, you know, you've got to wear the glasses, and I'm not sure how many people want to sit around their living rooms with special glasses to watch a 3-D football game or something. But the experience is pretty cool, so who knows? I mean, that’s something that potentially could take off.

BOB GARFIELD: All right, so if CES is the high holidays of the gizmo universe, what’s the mood in this economically depressed 2009?

MAGGIE REARDON: People are cautious. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, last night during his keynote, I mean, that was the first thing he brought up was the economy. And he was basically just trying to be the cheerleader, like, but it’s not going to be that bad. [LAUGHS] There’s still hope. There’s still innovation. I think all the consumer electronics makers are just crossing their fingers that people still need to buy a new TV. [LAUGHS]

BOB GARFIELD: Okay, Maggie. Well, listen, thank you very much. Enjoy the rest of the show.

MAGGIE REARDON: Well, thanks for having me.

BOB GARFIELD: Marguerite Reardon is a senior writer for CNET. She spoke to us from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.