Friday, January 4, 2008

Pre-CES: What to Look Forward to

The largest technology showcase in North America, the 2008 International CES, is fast-approaching. Although I can't sum up the event with one, stand-out theme just yet (unless I want to use the boring, all-encompassing term "technological innovation"), there are a few observations that can be made before our feet even step foot onto the overwhelming 1.8 million square feet of exhibit space.

Last year, the focus in flat-panels was on 1080p high-definition (yes, the "full" kind), and large screen sizes, as evidenced by announcements like Sharp's mammoth 108" LCD TV. This year, we can expect to see a shift in focus toward reduced depth rather than larger screen sizes. After all, can we really get much bigger than 108"? Needless to say, the term "thin is in" will be no stranger to many a company's exhibit. And don't forget OLED, which has also been garnering a lot of attention in the market as of late. We're certain to see some new and exciting innovations in that category.

Portable gadgets typically span every nook and cranny of the technology arena, and likewise, the CES show floor! In 2007, integrating features like video playback and GPS navigation into traditional MP3 players and smartphones were top-of-mind. This year, what we used to know as the portable audio player has since been enhanced to become the portable "media" player, as video playback has become almost an expected feature in the latest models. Given this, manufacturers are coming up with even more exciting ways to spice up the category, via abilities like WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity, and even fitness tracking. Ever since the iPhone hit the U.S. market, we've also seen an increased interest in creating a cell phone/multimedia player combo device that can serve as the true "jack of all trades" for the mobile consumer. The Sands Convention Center, as well as good ol' South and Central halls, will likely be the places to find hidden gems in the general gadgetry category.

It seems, then, that I can, in fact, pinpoint an overall, underlying theme of the show: entertainment. This year, CES is even attracting the attention of music and movie studio personalities that we often wouldn't find at a "technology" event (other than for publicity purposes, of course). These include, among celebrities like Yoko Ono, Natasha Bedingfield, from the Black Eyed Peas and Mary J. Blige, Comcast Corp. Chairman and CEO Brian L. Roberts, who will join the esteemed group of keynote addresses; and long-time music industry veteran Quincy Jones III. Technology is certainly playing an ever important (and changing!) role in the distribution, consumption, and enjoyment of entertainment; and the entire industry will be on-hand to see just what's in store for 2008 and beyond.

Finally, one recurring theme across the show will be "going green", as companies demonstrate ways to do things like conserve energy, help eliminate e-waste, and promote more efficient living while still enjoying helpful and fun gadgetry and technologies.

All of these observations merely scratch the surface of what we can expect from the 2,700 exhibitors and almost 2 million square footage of space at the 2008 CES; not to mention the growing number of off-site suites that aim to provide some breathing-time away from the show (although they often require brutal travel time, but don't get me started...)

Despite the existence of several, more focused A/V, photo, and wireless trade events, CES still remains the major launchpad for the most influential technologies of the year, and is likely to be attended by many this year. Stay tuned next week for coverage from the show floor on this blog, and on our sister Websites, and, including video product demos and diaries, and reportage of the latest and greatest in the tech sector.

On a related note, although Apple-fanatics will likely get their fill of iPod docks, skins, cases, accessories, and the like at CES, there will no doubt be some big news coming from Apple's dedicated MacWorld event, which actually runs after CES this year (January 15-18) rather than concurrent with it. Finally.

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