As I jet home from a great week at CES in Las Vegas, here’s a recap of what I saw, heard, overheard and witnessed as it relates to consumer electronics in 2010. This year’s show was incredible and incredibly different than previous years.
· Mobile networks – 2009 was the year of the mobile device (DROID, 3GS, Nexus One, Palm Pre) but 2010 will be the year of the mobile network. A huge battle is brewing amongst wireless carriers and the definition of 4G. What does it mean? When will it be commercially ready? It was talked about at virtually every meeting that I attended: “Just wait for 4G.” In its simplest form, it merely means a larger (faster) network for wireless devices. It was demoed by every U.S. carrier, but purely in a “demo” environment, as its rollout is not nearly complete. Media are chomping at the bit in excitement due to the limited capabilities of the current 3G system. What 4G holds for the future is not completely known, but for sure it will mean faster wireless access and less choking of the current wireless system, which I was told is nearly maxed out.
· HTC – While RIM, Motorola, Nokia, et. al, had their normal, and identical to years past, booth presence, HTC took a different approach and sponsored virtually every sort of break area, including a new free coffee Wi-Fi station within the convention center monorail station. This provided a lot of buzz for this formerly unknown (white-labeled) wireless device manufacturer.
· No more wires? – Say goodbye to wired anything. A huge theme at this year’s show was wireless everything. Not just mobile devices but, home speakers hidden in ceiling fans, door locks powered by your BlackBerry, garage doors powered by a mere sensor in your car, even water faucets and toilets.
· Recharging a new industry – Wireless everything is spawning quite the business of charging. Lots and lots of companies touting their “we charge everything” technology. Next year, we will see this business get even larger, as it appears many of the large companies are still trying to figure out how to do it correctly, as many of the companies on display with this technology were startups.
· 3D – Really surprising to me was the explosion of 3D displays and chatter that I saw and heard. From televisions, to glasses, to gaming, to even the talk of networks providing exclusive 3D channels, or movies, this was clearly a trend at this year’s show. Look for the satellite providers (DISH, DirecTV), to be the leaders here.
· What personal computers? –No one was talking Netbooks, Minis, MIDs or really anything PC hardware related. As a comparison, those were all the rage at last year’s show.
· M&A – Very different this year was the discussion about who might be buying whom. Look for mergers and acquisitions to ramp up again in 2010 after being very quiet in 2009.
· Targeting Women – Another trend is the direct targeting towards female purchasers. Not only was there an entire section of CES devoted towards Mommy Tech, there were a number of other booths with technology aimed directly at women. In a related note, there were fewer booth models than I’ve seen in the past, and I saw male booth models for the first time.
· Electronic ink – Get used to that term as it’s now what e-readers are being called. One search of the CES press site found a ton of new electronic ink machines being announced or add-ons featured. This is the same trend we heard at the PRWeek “Media Predicts” event.
· Social Sharing – The Boxee Box received tons of buzz, including the “Best Gadget Standing” award at CES. The Boxee Box plugs into your TV and allows you to search and store Web content, play it on your television and share it with your friends on social networks via a keyboard in the device's remote control. Is it the YouTube killer? Probably not; however the trend of socially sharing content was also on the minds of many media.
· Parrot’s AR.Drone – The disclaimer here is that Parrot is an Airfoil client, but just glance at a few of the hundreds of press mentions and CES awards and you’ll see that the quadricopter piloted by an iPhone was a huge hit at CES. With an open API and developers’ kits now available, look for this product to launch later this year with additional platforms and games.
From cab drivers to hoteliers to folks on the show floor, even the media, you could not escape how different the show felt. Not surprisingly, last year the talk across Vegas was how attendance was down and how no one was spending any money. This year, a different story. I hope the 2011 show continues this trend.
— Adam Silber