Kicking off what promises to be a year of incremental versus revolutionary innovation for the $195 billion high-tech business, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2013 was heavy on spectacle, light on substance. But look beyond the event's nearly two million square feet's worth of the weird (electronic forks), wacky (robotic spider walkers) and wild (110-inch, ultra high-def 4K TVs by Samsung and Westinghouse), and you'd notice something even cooler. Specifically, the future of technology – hyper-intuitive, always connected and increasingly built to provide convenience and value designed to fit your everyday lifestyle – quickly taking shape.
The big theme this year: "Smart" everything, as devices increasingly sport Internet connectivity, the ability to extend capabilities through apps, and options to create, share or download media to, with and amongst one another. Not that you'd know from highlight reels: a three-ring circus of splashy high-tech advancements from skyscraper-like screens to tabletop-sized tablets and accessories designed to solve every problem you never knew you had, continued industry excess was reflected in nearly every aspect of the occasion. With even chipmakers and so-called "ingredient brands" such as Qualcomm, AMD, Intel and NVIDIA suddenly vying for household recognition, marketers clearly arrived with megaphones blazing. Which of course, heralds a huge win for today's shopper: In a field long-dominated by engineers, the fact that insiders are suddenly rabid to court everyday end-users that have more choices and options than ever means we'll soon be privy to better gadgets that deliver more for the money – and do more to prove their worth right out of the box.
Following are just a few of the most eye-catching highlights. Inside tip: whether or not they'll actually find their way into your home or truly transform the market matters less than the fact manufacturers are trying to spoil us rotten. Expect greater power and performance, and a growing emphasis on function over flash, even as prices continue to plummet in coming months – always a plus for one's pocketbook, especially when you've got more ability than ever to shop around.
By Scott Steinberg