This week the technology gods gather in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show to pat each other on the back and try to make bets on trends for the future. For every successful category launch the road is paved with numerous failures. Every year there seems to be an overarching theme; for the last few years it was 3D, prior to that it was true black contrasting and cell processors in televisions. But this year are clearly in a transitional phase of technology with no unifying theme coming out of the show.
The Death of 3D
It’s dead, Jim. No amount of crying on my part is going to change the fact that 3D is all but gone. If the fact that neither the PlayStation 4 nor the Xbox One support 3D Blu-rays out of the box doesn’t prove it, then my week here at CES drilled it into my thick skull.
There is zero buzz on the showroom floor, no new 3D products (that I’ve seen), and most major manufacturers like Vizio, TCL Corp, etc. don’t even have 3D capabilities on any of their upcoming lineups of televisions. In previous years they at least talked up glasses-free 3D and other than Vizio, I haven’t even seen that. Once again, I’ve been burned!
I may be a skeptic, but wearable technology is big at CES this year. There are two separate exhibit areas purely dedicated to showcasing smart watches, health monitors and more. After seeing some of the smart watches up close, I have to admit that I’m intrigued. Samsung’s commercial made me remember how cool the idea was when I was kid. In real modern society, I think it’ll be a way for people to become even more annoying than they already are.
While the tech is certainly getting there, the fashion aspects of most of these products is severely lacking. I don’t know many women who would want to wear one of these big, bulky, ugly watches. Some budding fashion designer will make a mint solving this particular problem. The watches all feel a bit big and heavy on the wrists but the idea behind them is good, and some companies are going so far as to embed notification technology into jewelry.
The one area where wearable is going to be huge is health monitoring. As a Jawbone user, I found it interesting to visit the health tech exhibit and see what people are doing with exercise and tracking apps. In the coming years, these products will not only track sleep and the number of steps you take, but also keep tabs on your heart and pulse rate. As a minor type 2 diabetic, I’m waiting for the day when it’ll also track my sugar levels without pricking my finger.
Television – 4K/Ultra HD and Curved Television
Ultra high definition television (also known as Ultra HD television, UHDTV or UHD) includes 4K UHD (2160p) and 8K UHD (4320p), two digital video formats proposed by NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories and defined and approved by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
Manufacturers are using the terms UltraHD and 4K interchangeably, and why not? Most normal people will be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the various specs. I’m not a big believer in any of these next gen successors to HDTV (I honestly don’t see much difference between HD and 4K UHD), but I do like the associated technology.
It seems manufacturers have finally realized content is king but aren’t relying on Hollywood to provide it. Several companies showcased new upscaling technologies that will automatically upscale most standard definition and HDTV definition to 4K. That means we won’t have to replace our current video libraries to get the full benefits of these new sets.
These new 4K televisions also have built in Wi-Fi, and they will support external hard drives. They have better audio, and some will have professional calibration tools built right in. All of this new technology will of course come at a premium price, but if it follows standard forms, the prices will get down to $2,000 and under fairly quickly.
To give consumers a taste of a 4K future we now have some new affordable 4K monitors. Dell announced a new 27-inch model would be available in a few weeks for under $800. There aren’t that many computers around that can handle that many pixels, but people with Macbook Pros with Retina displays, or Mac Pros, will love this. And with the monitor’s HDMI ports any video device should work well with it.
Dolby Vision has released a new spec designed to bring the movie theater experience to your home by making it easier than ever to finally have proper brightness and contrast. Several manufacturers are experimenting with including calibration tools and professional out-of-the-box-calibrated settings in their sets. I have to say watching high-def content on properly calibrated televisions is always stunning.
Now that we’re on the cusp of new tech we’re getting some new designs; thinner bezels and curved displays are buzzing here. Not sure I understand the excitement of curved displays yet.
Laptops, Computers & Tablets
For a show geared towards consumer technology, there is hardly any new computer tech on display. Visiting Intel’s booth was just sad. It seems PC makers have no idea what they want to do with laptops; there were a lot of bland, boring-looking ultrabooks and convertible notebooks on display. I understand the idea behind convertibles but it is a silly concept.
A convertible seems neat when you first take it apart, but you immediately realize how unusable the form factor is for tablet use. I also don’t like the fact that SSD-based ultrabooks still have incredibly small hard drives. When are we going to have 500GB SSD as the standard configuration?
Seems like every company has at least three or four different Android tablets of all size ranges coming to market. Some like Samsung have gotten ridiculous and are pushing 12.9-inch tablets. It is beautiful and surprisingly lightweight but it is huge! Who is this thing for?
I still dislike Android tablets because the operating system just isn’t made for tablet use, and while there may be parity with iOS for apps, it is nearly impossible to find Android apps designed specifically for tablet use.
Smartphones, Android Takes Over the World, and Where’s Microsoft?
Somehow it’s finally happened.
Android has become the de facto standard operating system for nearly everything. It is powering Internet apps on televisions, stereos, and smart watches, and there were a LOT of new Android cell phones. So no matter how much I don’t particularly care for the Android platform, it is here to stay.
As a Microsoft fangirl I was disappointed that MS was barely at this show. A rep told me they were there to push the Windows 8 experience and not make product announcements.
In past years there was a lot of star power on the show floor. Other than Tim Tebow and 50 Cent, I haven’t seen anyone. ATT did have John Legend at their party and Monster Cable always has a big bash – this year Fleetwood Mac performed.
I still need to visit the big boys – Sony, LG, and Samsung – but the theme for this year is slow, steady, and incremental changes. Everyone seems to be fairly risk-adverse at the moment.