TabTimes will be flying to Las Vegas, and we'll be covering all the major products, news, stories, and more right from the show floor itself. Here are the 12 biggest trends we think will come under the spotlight at CES 2012:
1. Expect loads of (better) budget Android tablets
Last year was dominated by a plethora of low-end Android tablets running phone-optimized operating systems and with fairly uninspiring interfaces. That will change this year.
Expect to see a raft of Honeycomb tablets, and some Ice Cream Sandwich models, all of which should run faster and be easier to navigate than the models at last year’s show. Another plus is that these models should be priced in the $300 range.
2. Windows 8 prototype tablets
It's unlikely that we'll see a plethora of Win8 tablets, but we expect to see a few. Unfortunately, you'll probably need to collar a product manager for a preview.
This said, Steve Ballmer's last CES keynote could and should also bear some interesting news on Windows 8 developments. Prior to release, this will be one of the last big opportunities to measure the pulse of Microsoft's new OS.
3. Apple won’t be there, but will be at CES in spirit
Forget the fact that Apple itself won’t be attending the show; it will still cast a long shadown on the proceedings. The company will dominate the accessory category in the same way it did last year. And to some degree, every manufacturer is playing off (and emulating) the iPad and iPhone.
4. New tablets to watch out for at CES
We're going to see and hear about a seemingly infinite number of new tablets including a host of second-generation devices. Most tablet manufacturers have been fairly quiet on new launches ahead of CES, but there are a few tablets are already expected to tip up at the show in Las Vegas:
- Asus plans to launch a 7-inch model, maybe a revised Eee Pad Memo, according to reports.
- Acer looks set to announce the A200 and A700 tablets, two 10-inch Android 4.0 slates running Nvidia’s Tegra 3 quad processor.
- Coby will introduce five Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) tablets at CES. If you’re a fan of tablets, but on a budget, the Coby booth is definitely one to check-out.
- German manufacturer Kupa will bring a Windows 7 tablet to CES. The 10-inch X11 will be shown in the “Access To Go” section of CES.
5. Welcome, Ice Cream Sandwich
The main difference in tablets this year is that the majority of Android tablets on show will now run tablet-optimized software, whether that be that Honeycomb (Android 3.0) or Google’s latest release, Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0).
Several manufacturers have already committed to the new platform, so expect to see and hear plenty of news on new ICS tablets and the features they will bring.
6. Increased enterprise presence
Based on the appointment requests we've received, it's clear that product manufacturers are taking CES's suble embrace of enterprise-oriented companies and products to heart. It's highly likely you'll hear a greatly increased quantity of enterprise-focused news and product coverage this year.
7. Even more mobile apps
As always, there are bound to be a number of small and start-up companies offering a range of consumer mobile applications, both for iOS and Android.
CES organizers clearly looked to move with this trend last year, hosting a ‘Mobile Apps Showdown’ event, which is on again this year at the Las Vegas Convention Center on 12th January. App developers will be given two-minutes to demo their product, with an ‘applause-o-meter’ judging the winners. It's a little bit of a gimmick and it is the last day of the show, but may still yield some interesting results.
8. Watch out for hi-res & OLED tablet displays
Tablet manufacturers are shifting their gaze to hi-res and OLED displays. In particular, keep your eyes peeled for any 2560 x 1500 resolution displays, as already ‘promised’ by Apple (according to reports) and made by arch-rival Samsung.
OLED displays will also have a part to play, especially in the handset arena, but also for large-screen TVs. LG Electronics has already committed to showing a 55” OLED TV and 84” 4K television.
9. New form factors & features will emerge
Although highly unlikely to be in production, we may find some prototype tablets in interesting new shapes and sizes, or with previously unheard of new features. We won't be surprised to see 3D support, and embedded pico projectors in at least a few tabs.
We're also interested in the reception Nintendo's new Wii U gaming system, which utilizes a tablet as both a controller and a sensor, will receive.
10. UltraBooks: The tablet’s bigger, stronger brother or a serious rival?
At CES Unveiled, the CEA’s Shawn DuBravac said that as many as 50 UltraBooks may be launched at CES. Intel is backing the UltraBook, but one big question is whether UltraBooks compliment or compete with tablets.
There's considerable tension around this, and there's no clear consensus on the results. While some manufacturers have claimed that the two will co-exist, Digitimes says that an increasing number of tablet makers are actually shifting production from tablets to UltraBooks for higher margins.
11. RIM's game face
The stakes are high for Research in Motion. Between the company's beleagured line of phones and the PlayBook's lack of results, it's going to be a tough, critical show. The real question is what kind of public face company executives put on. We're way past spin, but the manner in which RIM's leadership confronts the criticism that is surely coming will be interesting.
12. Microsoft bids farewell, can CES survive? (Yes)
Microsoft says that its CES 2012 keynote and booth attendance will be its last, with the company planning to drop out of CES next year. Microsoft says that its own Build conferences are more valuable and more meaningful for promoting its own goods.
This is a big test for the organizers of CES, who must worry if other major brands have been thinking the same thing. There are however, a couple of things in the show’s favour. First of all, huge events have survived brand fall-outs before, notably when Apple decided it had had enough of MacWorld in 2008. Second, CES is absolutely huge. The show keeps getting bigger, and with everything from kitchenware to car audio, it's far more than a PC-oriented collection.
Just for some background, 1.6 million net square feet exhibit space will be taken up and over 140,000 attendees will attend CES 2012, according to internal estimates.