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Trends to watch for at CES 2012

I’m about to leave for the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to hang out with 140,000 of my closest friends. This show — the mother of all tech trade show — is where people find out what many companies plan to release at some point during 2012. Not all products shown at CES will make it to market and many of the ones that do will be flops. But there have also been some successful products and product categories launched at CES including the VCR in 1970, the Commodore 64 personal computer in 1982, the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, HDTV in 1998, satellite radio Tivo in 1999, Blu-Ray in 2003 and that wildly successful (not) Palm Pre in 2009. CES is also where many people first saw 3D TVs in 2009 and a parade of tablets in 2011.

So here are a few things we can we expect at CES 2012.

3D TVs without glasses.  We saw that in 2011 but we’ll see more of them and larger ones in 2012. We’ll also see lots of 3D TVs that use inexpensive passive glasses instead of the $300 a pair active ones that were common just a couple of years ago. These new developments are a good sign, but I’m still not convinced that people will want to spend more on 3D TV. As CES chief Gary Shapiro said in a podcast interview posted at CNET, 3D is a feature, not a new category of TV.

Ultrabooks: Apple has done very well with its thin and lightweight MacBook Air but the so-called Windows “netbooks,” never did catch on big time. That’s because they were under-powered and often had skimpy keyboards. Ultrabooks are thin and light but they’re not cheap and they don’t skimp on power. Expect Lenovo, Dell, HP and others to feature them at CES and expect Ultrabooks to be the hot category of PCs in the coming year.

Thin OLED TVs: OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode and unlike other technologies, there is no need for a backlight so it’s more energy efficient. It also allows for thinner TVs and for richer colors, better contrast and resolution. LG has already blogged that it will be showing the “world’s largest OLED,” a 55-inch model.

Speaking of models, here’s on standing next to LG’s 55 inch OLED (photo: LG)

Connected TVs

It should come as no surprise that the hottest thing on TV has nothing to do with an antenna or even a cable or satellite connection but the ability to bring in streaming video from the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others. As with previous years, there will be plenty of TVs with built-in Internet connectivity. I wouldn’t be surprised if it emerges as an almost standard feature.

Connected Cars: There will be keynote speeches from the CEOs of both Ford and Mercedes and plenty of connectivity solutions for cars. There will also be mobile apps to control cars, such as Ford’s MyFord Mobile App to help owners of its electric cars find charging stations.

iStuff: As usual Apple won’t be at CES but there will be plenty of vendors with apps, cases and accessories for the iPhone and iPad. There will even be an “iLounge,” with 300 exhibitors who are focused on supporting Apple products.


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