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What to expect from CES

As the technology industry once again flocks to Las Vegas for the annual sensory overload known as the Consumer Electronics Show, many commentators are beginning to question the relevance of the event. The 24-hour news cycle and a year-round focus on consumer technology have diminished the importance of a once-a-year gathering. While CES still attracts the biggest and the best in the industry – with the notable exception of Apple – there is a feeling that most major announcements now take place elsewhere.

That was particularly the case last year. While CES was showcasing 3D TVs and e-readers, everyone’s eyes were on Cupertino, where Apple was getting ready to unveil the iPad.

But CES is still a great place to get a feel for the latest tech trends. If it’s not quite the breaking-news event that it used to be, there are still plenty of products and services that will help shape our technology-driven future.

So what can we expect from this year’s event? Here are a few topics and trends that we are likely to hear about over the next four days.

Tablets, tablets, tablets

What a difference a year makes. Tablets were around at CES last year but mostly as raw prototypes. Nobody was sure there was a market for them or whether they could compete with hugely popular netbooks. Well, the success of the iPad changed all that. This year, netbooks will look like relics of a bygone age, as PC manufacturers fall over themselves to jump on the tablet bandwagon.

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab has shown there can be a viable alternative to the iPad. Expect more Android-based devices from Motorola, Toshiba, and Vizio among others. Also, expect to see Windows-based tablets, and maybe even an announcement from HP on the much-rumored PalmPad.

The benefits of 4G networks

The phone companies will spend the next four days convincing us why we should abandon our recently-purchased 3G phones in favor of must-have 4G capability. Verizon and Sprint will lead the charge, with both companies showcasing 4G phones, including the HTC Thunderbolt from Verizon and the HTC Evo Shift from Sprint.

Expect phones to be even bigger than they are now, with beautiful HD screens, front and rear-facing cameras, mobile hotspot capability, and video chat as standard. Monster screens have always dominated at CES, but instead of 60-inch TV screens, it’s now 4-inch smartphones!

The connected automobile

Over the last few years, certain areas of CES have started to feel more like an auto show than an electronics show and we can expect that trend to continue. Ford CEO Alan Mulally is a keynote speaker for the second year running, and this year the show will actually host the unveiling of the 2012 Ford Focus Electric.

Meanwhile, manufacturers such as General Motors, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz will also be there in force, showcasing everything from Internet radio services to remote start and security systems to in-car text-blocking devices.

TV takes a back seat

This could be the first year in a long time that CES isn’t dominated by TVs. The lukewarm reception for 3D TV (the star of last year’s show) and the uncertain future of web-based TV has cast a pall over this usually thriving sector. There will be a few demonstrations of so-called passive 3D technology – which means cheaper, throw-away glasses – but the revolutionary fervor from last year will be noticeably absent.

Despite the teething problems of Google TV, set makers haven’t given up on the Internet. In fact, 50 percent of the TVs currently being shipped are Internet-enabled in some way. Content delivery services like Netflix and music site Pandora will continue to be the big winners, as the traditional networks struggle to figure out an acceptable revenue model.

CES and video gaming

As consumer technology continues to have an impact on everything we do, there is an argument for consolidating smaller niche shows into CES, making it even bigger and even crazier. The video game industry’s flagship event, E3, is a case in point. Video game consoles are now firmly established in the living room, used as much for their movie-playing capabilities as they are for playing games. Meanwhile devices such as Microsoft’s Kinect motion controller for the Xbox 360 continue to open up video gaming to an all-family audience.

This year, we will again see more video games and video game equipment at CES. Expect that trend to continue – and expect the big boys in the video gaming industry to take a hard look at where they think they belong.



Comment by Milcah, posted 1/5/2011, 3:59 PM:

I'll so be looking forward to whatever info you bring back. Thanks for being eyes and ears for those of us who can't be there!
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