Backwards Compatible: The big winners of CES 2013 are novel but obvious

Will Podlewski, Columnist

Football has the Super Bowl, geeks have San Diego Comic Con and the technology market has the Consumer Electronics Show. This annual event, running until Jan. 11, is the single biggest venue for electronic giants and startups alike to preview their wares for the upcoming year. Each one touts the next biggest innovation, but sorting through the dense industry jargon can be more trouble than it’s worth. However, there are gems out there, and I’ve picked the two most innovative products of the first half of CES 2013 thus far.

The Lenovo Horizon 27

Cool as they are, tablets are utterly silly. With increasingly powerful smartphones able to handle complex programs with ease, tablets fall awkwardly between the cracks. The tablet is really nothing more than a coffee table computer, a device designed with multiple users in mind for the most casual of computing tasks. However, no real tablet has fully embraced that identity until the Lenovo Horizon 27, which has gone so far as to turn the coffee table into the tablet.

Measuring a massive 27 inches diagonally, Lenovo’s tablet-desktop hybrid is one of the first of its kind, taking a Tony Starkian approach to tabletop computing by integrating cutting-edge technology into an everyday object. While it can be propped upright and used like a traditional desktop computer, the Horizon 27 really shines when placed flat on a table. Even Lenovo seems to acknowledge this particular strength — the software giant is even designing a table built exclusively to accommodate the Horizon 27, complete with a retracting tabletop.

The SpareOne AA Battery Powered Emergency Cellphone

In the mass consumer market today, technology has to be sexy. The newest and best TVs are touted as lighter and thinner than ever, phones and tablets pride themselves on being constructed from premium materials and even headphones capitalize more on their looks than their sound (cough, Beats, cough). But in this world of style over substance, newcomer SpareOne shocked the mobile phone industry by doing the most obvious thing imaginable — running a cellphone on an everyday AA battery (why didn’t I think of that?)

According to SpareOne, their emergency cellphone can hold a charge for a whopping 15 years with a single battery (that’s probably about 6,500 times better than my HTC). Of course, the phone is nothing but a set of buttons — not even a screen. A fashion statement the SpareOne is not, but in a survival situation, nothing can really beat it.

As CES 2013 continues to heat up, hopefully some of the big name companies will unveil their best and brightest. But for now, I’m happy with what I’ve seen already. Even in a market flooded by imitators and minor improvements, innovation can still spark.