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Saturday, January 14, 2012

CES 2012

Another Consumer Electronics Show has just ended in Las Vegas.   Many attendees had the impression there was not much new this year.   If you scratch the surface however, there was quite a bit new, although not transformative, and there were current and future trends revealed. 

To say that CES can be overwhelming is an understatement.   This year there were 153,000 people in attendance including 34,000 international attendees.  There were 3100 exhibitors displaying some 20,000 new products.  Innovation was the key theme for an industry expected to reach one trillion dollars in sales globally in 2012.

To put the enormity of the show in perspective, the 1.861 million square feet of floor space would fill 37 football fields and if you walked all the aisles in the show you would log 15 miles !

Some of the trends could be found in what was missing or leaving.  There was the notable announcement from Microsoft that this would be the last year they give the opening keynote speech and the last year they have a presence on the show floor.   They claim that their product launch schedule does not coincide with CES and they can attract greater analyst interest with their own conferences.   Again, the lack of Apple’s presence was noticed,  although there were plenty of Apple execs spotted walking the floor.   The rumor mill was abuzz with talk of Apple’s forthcoming 50 inch display and it’s impact on the industry.   There were hundreds of vendors displaying apple related accessories.

Another thing missing this year, thankfully, was the hype surrounding 3D TV, although there were plenty of developments in this space.  Expectations for 3D growth have been lowered and it might take the release of “glasses free” displays known as autostereoscopic to be released in the next 2-4 years to fuel significant growth in the market.

Some of the key trends and highlights that I saw include:

4K resolution TV for the home has arrived (4 times the resolution of 1080P)     

Connected TV’s and devices.    Everything connected to everything..

Crossover devices.  Is it a tablet, laptop, phone, camera, gaming console, etc.?

The resurgence of Google TV

Windows Ultrabooks (think Macbook Air clones) with a strong marketing push by Intel in 2012

TV displays were bigger, thinner and badder (better processing and aesthetics),
            including OLED

Proliferation of consumer entertainment cloud services.

A move from active 3D glasses to passive

More android tablets from numerous vendors at low price points ($150 to $300) including Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

Cool new gaming consoles; Nintento’s Wii U and Sony Playstation Vita

LTE (4th gen wireless network) compatible smartphones and a tablet  

Health, fitness and medical related devices for iphones and android

Ipad-like displays in cars (including Siri-like voice activation to hopefully mitigate dangerous driving)

Point and shoot cameras with wireless capability (immediate uploads)

Prior to the show, there were some 40 OTT (Over The Top) deals announced between pay-tv providers and connected device manufacturer’s.   I’m sure the number increased significantly during the show.

Disney and Comcast signed a 10 year deal for TV Everywhere.  Ten years !

Samsung showing my colleague, John Caldwell, the Galaxy note, a combination tablet/phone

Connected devices are the next big thing.   There was a lot of growth in 2011 and there will be exponential growth in the next few years.  By the end of 3Q11 in the US alone there were 106 million smartphones, 62 million game consoles, 20 million tablets, 6 million OTT boxes and by the end of 2011 there were 5.4 million Smart TV’s sold.

Windows 8 will be something to watch when it’s released in time for the 2012 holiday season, as it will work across tablets, smartphones and PC’s.   It has the potential to speed up integration between these devices.

Consumer cloud services are very closely linked to connected devices (think Amazon Prime) and every content provider wants a piece of this new pie.  App development is also part of this new paradigm.

Sony announced two consumer clouds services called Music Unlimited Streaming and Video Unlimited Streaming.  Several manufacturer's are planning cloud services.  Ultraviolet (a digital locker service) is making headway with studio participation even though they’ve done an awful job at marketing to date.

The work that still needs to be done, in my opinion, is making it easier to navigate Smart TV apps.  Several manufacturer’s announced voice activation capabilities to replace keyboard entry for internet browsing (think Apple Iphone4s Siri).

Samsung showed their 55 inch OLED TV due out late 2012.  LG showed their 55 inch OLED display due out in 3Q12 for retail $8000.  Sony produce OLED’s for their professional market (Broadcast monitors) below 40 inch displays.  Their technology for larger screens is called Crystal LED.  Sony believes there are problems with longevity for large OLED displays so it will be interesting to see how other manufacturer’s deal with this.

Sony and others introduced 4K displays, home projectors and camera's.  LG introduced an 84 inch 4K display.  Sharp introduced a prototype 8K display!  4K is the digital film standard and it will allow consumers to see films as they were created, the same experience they get in theaters.  4K displays are also a prerequisite to "glasses free" or autostereoscopic displays.

Steve Ballmer announced a windows app store due out at the end of February.   He also said that Xbox Kinect has become more of an entertainment platform then gaming.   Ballmer said they would add Comcast Xfinity in the near future and announced a deal with Newscorp for programming on Xbox.   He also announced a new interactive “Sesame Street” program that would utilize Kinect.

Google have been busy with partnership deals for Google TV.  They announced deals with Samsung and LG.   Sony was already a Google TV partner.  Google also announced deals with chip makers MediaTek (Taiwan) and Marvell (US).  Google claims there are more than 150 Google TV-specific apps. Google also acquired Sage TV, a software DVR maker, in the summer of 2011.

All in all, once you looked under the CES covers…  it was an interesting show.
Of course, it was impossible to cover the full 15 miles in a few days…..but it felt like it…

Looking at 3D with Sony's CTO, Hugo Gaggioni

If you're curious to see more from CES have a look at these videos:

Highlights from Microsoft's final Keynote with Steve BalmerSony booth highlights,

best of CES awards from CNETMashable CES videosWalt Mossberg on Fox Business,

and Walt Mossberg walking the floor at CES


  1. Nice post Stavros! Did you see anything about the Samsung Smart Window? Looks like a pretty interesting product.

    -Adam Lake

  2. Thanks for the add Adam.. there were so many intriguing products there.. this one seems to have endless possibilities !

  3. Great read -- thanks for the recap!

  4. Thanks, Stavros for the roundup this year. I also saw a whole slew of tablets (allegedly indestructible) made especially for kids at really amazing and competitive prices. Cool stuff!