Awash in glittering gadgets, billboard-sized monitors and 3D everything, consumer electronics extravaganza CES provides a perennial weathervane for the high-tech business. Offering telltale signs of where 2011 promises to take us, these are five of the biggest things being buzzed about at this year’s show.
Enter the Tablet PC – With 80-odd units debuting this week alone courtesy of virtually every manufacturer from Asus (Eee Pad Slate) to Lenovo (LePad) and Sharp (Galapagos), the iPad’s about to face some stiff competition. Slimmer, lighter and more intuitive than laptops, these app-hungry beasts all threaten to cram a portable window onto cyberspace and Swiss Army-like range of functions right into your messenger bag.
Connectivity Reigns – There’s no escaping the Internet, with high-tech entertainment and information systems now being built into TVs, ovens, refrigerators and even cars by BMW, Ford and Tesla. Toyota owners can soon enjoy in-car online searches, restaurant reservations and Internet radio courtesy of multimedia app system Entune. With all this plus connected smartphones, stereos and home theater systems, forget ever going off the grid again.
The Joy of Sets – With new technologies blooming, form factors shrinking and prices plummeting, the television biz is clearly ready for primetime in 2011. Some models go bigger, e.g. Mitsubishi’s new 92-inch 3D Home Cinema unit. Others, including the LG LW9500, add full-array LED backlighting for better colors and contrast, plus super-thin dimensions. But the most progressive promise glasses-free 3D or add WiFi compatibility for streaming music, movies and TV, or access to social networks, online video and games through downloadable apps. Courtesy of Vudu, early adopters can even savor streaming 3D movies next week as well, so those annoyed by anemic film libraries might actually get some return from their holiday splurge.
Mobile Becomes the New Black– If they’re not busy gabbing about Android 3.0, nee Honeycomb, which is optimized for tablet PCs, insiders are buzzing about a slew of 4G high-speed smartphone handsets from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and other wireless carriers. Like a growing range of mini-camcorders, pint-sized laptops and portable Blu-ray players, all point to shoppers’ increasing preference for go-go gadgets that travel wherever they do.
Thin is In – At least someone’s keeping their new year’s resolution to trim waistlines. Ultra-thin laptops and Blu-ray players such as Samsung’s 9 Series (an answer to the MacBook Air) and BD-D7500 (a scant 1.1 inches deep, despite boasting WiFi connectivity and 2D-to-3D image upconversion) are just the beginning, though. Smartphones like the 9.2mm thick LG Optimus Black, external hard drives such as Seagate’s minute GoFlex HDD and gizmos including Casio’s adjustable frame-sporting Tryx camera are all helping make skinny the watchword in 2011.