The 10 most important tablet trends, products, and stories at CES 2012

January 13, 2012

Having looked at what to expect prior to the show, TabTimes evaluates what this year’s exhibition taught us about the consumer electronics market, with tablets in particular, playing a lead role.

1. Manufacturers salivate at Windows 8, but are concerned by Microsoft’s lack of urgency

Windows 8 was being touted by a number of tablet makers, and a few showed some prototype models on the exhibition floor.

Despite this enthusiasm for the platform, and specifically the ‘Metro’ user interface for tablets, Microsoft's presence at CES 2012 was a disappointment. Steve Ballmer’s keynote address was loud and well-choreographed, but went over familiar territory, teasing new features we can all hurry up and wait for in Windows 8.

The Tablet manufacturers we spoke to are still disappointed about having to wait so long for it to arrive however. As of now, we're looking at a Fall release with a consumer preview in coming months.

2. RIM isn’t dead yet

Research in Motion (RIM) had a mammoth stand at CES, which attracted a surprising number of people. The firm may not have introduced anything spectacular at the show (news on PlayBook 2.0 was welcome, if expected), but the fact that interest remains in the company will be of some relief to the struggling BlackBerry maker.

Maybe RIM has turned the corner? We'll find out when PlayBook 2.0 is released in a few months.

3. Tablets are available in all shapes and sizes

There was a suggestion at last year’s CES that tablets were all very similar in appearance. That criticism could not be levelled during this year's exhibition.

As well as the conventional 7-inch and 10-inch tablets, there were an increasing number of slates with dock-able keyboards (led by the impressive Transformer Prime), integrated game controls and tablets which represented some kind of cross-over with Ultrabooks. We also saw a growing number of 8-inch tablets as well as the 5.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Note, which comes with a stylus and blurs the line between smartphone and tablet. 

Finally, TabTimes also saw devices with 3D and OLED displays and with water-proof protection.

4. Enterprise needs come into focus…

Enterprise finally came into focus at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, with a handful of manufacturers realizing that enterprise needs are different to those of the average consumer.

This year, Logitech’s new Logitech for Business unit revealed that it is seeing success of deploying tablets keyboards and accessories in the enterprise, while Verizon Wireless’s Blank Slate (more on that later) is a wonderfully innovative way to push tablet adoption into business. 

5…As businesses begin to embrace BYOD

Based on the conversations TabTimes held with several products managers at the show, the enterprise is ready now to support the big drive for bring-your-own-device (BYOD), with costing savings appearing to be the primary motive.  The conversation will now shift to finding out how businesses can secure corporate data on these personally-owned devices.  At CES, there were 4-5 emerging solutions that ran the gamut from using virtual clients to heavy/invasive security to geofencing.

6. Verizon Wireless’s Blank Tablet could be a game-changer

Verizon Wireless’s Blank Slate has tremendous potential. The ability for companies to approach Verizon and customize their corporate-owned tablets' hardware and software will be welcome by enterprise customers, who have so far been frustrated by the limitations of out-of-the-box consumer tablets.

For some, this will take the form of tablets that ship with the proper apps, access, and provisioning. For other corporate customers, this will take on much more ambitious goals, such as retail-oriented tablets or more purpose-specific devices. 

If Blank Slate is as cheap as we think it will be, it could become a real force for good in the tablet enterprise market.

7. OnLive will become a serious player in the virtualization landscape

TabTimes editor George Jones saw Onlive Desktop in action and was impressed with what he saw. “It’s pretty remarkable. They [OnLive] showed me an iPad running Autodesk’s Maya – it’s a beefy $5,000 piece of software and it ran flawlessly. In terms of rich media reproduction, OnLive’s virtualization transcends Citrix, while the fact it’s going to be free for users – with the subscription version allowing persistent customizable desktop – is also amazing.”

8. Rise of quad-core tablets, Ice Cream Sandwich and the prospects of Android

As expected in our preview of the show (see below), quad-core and Ice Cream Sandwich tablets were everywhere at CES. Some of the quad-core slates were running Nvidia’s Tegra 3, while others ran Qualcomm chips. One thing to note was just how much better Android tablets were compared to last year’s show, what with Ice Cream Sandwich and the same low price point. Google clearly has a bright future ahead, especially when you consider that some of these tablets have MSRPs of under $200.

9. Intel has a long road ahead

Having famously dismissed the idea of the tablet over the past 18 months, Intel was forced to recognize the growing popularity of tablets and has more fully embraced the form-factor.

The chipmaker has been busy at work with its Ultrabook designs (more on that in a second), but now realizes that the two are likely to run alongside each other. Intel spent much of CES pushing its chips for mobile products, but has a long road ahead to try and catch up Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Nvidia.

10. The Ultrabook is here to stay. The question remains; does it replace the laptop, the tablet or neither?

Ultrabooks were everywhere at CES, and the Consumer Electronics Association predicted that there would be as many as new 50 models unveiled at the show. New models came from the likes of Lenovo, Toshiba and Acer, all prominent tablet makers, which would seem to suggest that Ultrabooks will co-exist with tablets.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini showed off a prototype Ultrabook that easily converts to a table for media consumption. What's that old saying? If you can't beat them, join them

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