By Andrew Till
Well another CES has now closed and it’s time to reflect on the key themes and trends from the show. So here are my initial observations though I reserve the right to update these after a good night’s sleep – something I have never mastered in Vegas !
BIG BIG BIG
Attendance at this year’s CES was significantly up over last year as could be observed from my favourite barometer the size of the queue at the taxi rank. Estimates for attendance put the total at between 120-130k people which would equate to a 40-50% increase over 2010. There were also some sizeable standards at the show with Sony, Samsung and LGE all seeming to be in competition for the largest stand.
What this really underlines is a renewed sense of optimism in the market and the prospects for growth with everyone expecting to enjoy a strong year in both the consumer and business segments.
Without doubt the main talking point of the show was the volume of new tablets being launched. During my walk around I counted in excess of 70 new models being shown off. The undisputed OS winner was Android although many of the tablets leveraging Android were using a basic Froyo release with lightweight customisation to support a 7 or 10 inch display.
The coming 12 months will be an interesting time for the Android tablet market given the latest market forecasts for tablet sales it’s hard to see how the market will be able to sustain 60-70 tablet vendors through 2011. The Android Tablet getting the most attention was the Motorola Xoom which was announced just before the show and features Android 3.0 (though it was slightly disappointing that the units on the show floor were only running videos as opposed as a pre-release Honeycomb release).
Although Android dominated there were both Windows 7 and MeeGo tablets were on display but you had to invest some time and effort to find them. It’s probably too early to judge MeeGo for the tablet space at this point in time while the Windows 7 tablets I was able to see delivered what you would expect but failed to bring real differentiation to the segment.
RIMs Playbook as the other major Tablet offering at the show and was receiving significant attention and a lot of positive feedback with the RIM stand being constantly busy throughout the show. Based on, the limited, time I was able to get my hands on it the Playbook should be able to gain a respectable level of market share. The only concern amongst potential users seems to be the lack of local mail storage which may limit adoption outside existing RIM users.
Would you like 3D
The overwhelming focus of the show was 3D and not just for TVs (and there were some BIG TVs on show in the 65-70- inch range) but also in Phones (SEMC), Cameras (all leading vendors), BlueRay players. It’s clear that the consumer electronics industry is making some significant bets on the success of 3D. Both active and passive systems were on display with some genuinely impressive offerings and some quite uninspiring ones as well. It’s also clear that 3D will not be limited to just the delivery of HD playback but will also be applied to UIs and applications being developed for the next generation of TVs and which are likely to be a key focus at next year’s show.
Web & TV convergence picks up pace
Another key themes was Web meets TV with all leading TV vendors using CES to show off their offerings. In addition this was also a major theme of Set Top Box vendors and Over The Top box providers at the show. As expected GoogleTV was a major discussion point with Logitech and Sony both pushing their initial GoogleTV solutions. Teleca also took the opportunity to demonstrate the solutions we have been developing for customers around GoogleTV. Another key platform is Adobe’s AIR 2.5 which is being widely integrated by many TV and STB providers. Samsung was also showing off it’s in house development called “Smart TV” which was a key part of its 3D TV range. An MIPs was showing it’s Android Smart TV solution offerings in conjunction with a number of silicon vendors such as Broadcom, Reneses, Sigma etc.
The focus was not just on providing access to streaming on line services, such as YouTube and Hulu, and browser support but also on delivering a compelling applications platform and enabling your Tablet or Phone to be both a content source and smart remote. While some of the usability issues have not been ironed out its clear that it will be challenging to buy a mid to high end TV without a connected platform built in.
The Car is getting “Really” Smart
Car manufacturers were out in force at this year’s CES either showing of their latest prototypes, such as GMs 4G concept car, or roaming the halls to see the latest advancements in in-car entertainment. It’s clear that the in-car entertainment experience is set to evolve rapidly over the next 2-3 years with everyone looking to move to a fully connected experience enabling access to real time services, applications and content stores and providing a fully integrated Human Machine Interface that delivers a consistent user paradigm across the range of services being delivered to the driver or passengers. However it’s not just about being connected in the car but a lot of focus is also being placed on how the in-car experience connects and interacts with the in-home experience especially around the portability of multimedia content.
With differentiation in industrial design becoming ever more challenging for handset vendors this year’s CES gave an insight in to one approach that is likely to develop in to a significant area of competition. A number of vendors where leveraging intelligent docking solutions to enable a phone to deliver an enhanced set of user experiences and capabilities. Most notable of these was Motorola’s Atrix4 handset which takes the intelligent docking solution of the Driod X to the next level and is capable of docking with a Laptop Dock enabling a much wider set of capabilities.
The key enabler of this trend appears to be the introduction of 1GHz processors with Symmetrical Multi-core Processing such as TIs OMAP 4 and the nVidia Integra2 offerings. Of course it is also worth noting that there were many 3rd party peripheral vendors offering similar solutions for the iPod and IPad platforms. One that caught my eye was Connect 4’s solution that enables an iPad to be docking in a wall and to become an intelligent home automation controller.
I expect this trend to be a key feature of CES 2012.
LTE a key competitive play from operators
After last year’s CES I commented that LTE would be key for 2011 and so it has proved to be with Verizon, Sprint and AT&T all pushing their 4G services. There was also a wealth of 4G handsets on offer at the show with HTC (backed by a very significant marketing investment around CES), Samsung, Motorola and Dell all launching 4G devices at the show.
Other notable items
• Microsoft confirm support for ARM with Windows 8
• Connected appliances are coming back into the play – and Windows CE is still a strong player in this space
• There’s an app for everything but based on the thousands of companies selling iPhone/iPad peripherals there is also an accessory for everything.
• After the success of the Kinect a log of companies are stepping up their focus on montion control solutions
• Home automation is becoming a key focus for next generation home entertainment systems
So that’s it. Another CES is finished and I am probably 4-5 pounds lighter thanks to all the walking but very excited about the year ahead.