Expect this week's technology press to be stuffed full of info relating to and stemming from CES 2010. but what exactly can we expect from the show this year? We've summed it up for you.
Firstly, there will be some of you out there asking "What is the CES?" and that's easy to answer: It's one of the World's largest and most important gadgets and technology showcase events. The show's held every January in Las Vegas, and its heritage stretches back to 1967, where it happened in New York—this year it kicks off on Thursday, January 7 and runs until January 11. Companies from all over the world, both big and small, use the event to demonstrate new product lines due to hit stores later in the year, and to show off prototypes of exciting tech that one day might make it into products. A record 330 new exhibitors are joining this year, bringing the total to over 2,500.
That's the good bit. The bad bit, for CES old-hands, is that there's always such a plethora of new gadgets that it's effectively a product spamming event. Let's look at what you might expect, and what we won't see at CES 2010.
Laptops and Netbooks
Ahead of the show this year Lenovo, Samsung, Toshiba, and HP have leaked out their product lines for ;2010, and all serve as a model for what we can expect from almost every other PC manufacturer. The big news in both laptops and netbooks is Intel's new chipsets. Hence Samsung's new netbooks with the Atom N450 in, and Toshiba's thin and laptops based on Intel's new Core i3 chips.
But the downside is that there will be literally hundreds of these machines—each with a slightly different spec, and differing in case design. But essentially, they'll all be pretty much the same: The blurring of the top-end netbooks into the low-end laptop class will continue, and all of them will be running Windows 7 in some form. The only interest is going to be in the ancillary details, like Samsung's fingerprint- and scratch-resistant casing materials. Regular computers might be CES's most boring device category this year.
This is the year of the tablet, and this is going to be the most exciting class of product at CES. We've shown you one or two examples, and they'll no doubt be getting a more public reveal and groping by enthusiastic journos at the show—so expect lots of coverage on these slim devices.
Things to look for in these machines: Different screen sizes, which seem to be settling into the 10-inch class and the 7-inch class, as demoed in Freescale's new "smartbook" prototype. Also watch for the operating systems—it's going to be a battle between Windows 7 and Android, for the time being. Capactive touchscreens versus resistive too: The latter is cheaper, but multitouch is only possible on the former—and it's a defining system for interacting with a tablet's UI.
There will be talk about content deals too, which will definitely be worth paying attention to. That's because media delivery is what tablets are all about—books, videos, music and comics. If big name manufacturers get the right content deals set up, it'll really propel tablets into the public's consciousness.
With plasma technology actually making its swansong, the tech to look for among the hundreds of different TVs you'll read about is LED/LCD and OLED.
LCD-powered high definition TVs are, of course, the devices hanging on nearly everyone's walls at the moment. The chief technology pushes in this direction are to improve the LCD itself (so the picture is brighter, more contrasty and able to change between frames more swiftly) and how the screen is lit. Advances in the lighting area using LEDs are driving the depth of the TVs ever downwards, such that LG recently revealed some data on its "World's slimmest" LCD TV that's just 2.6mm front to back.
OLED is the next-gen of HDTV, since it's just so very much better than LCD in terms of picture quality. The panels are still very expensive though, so if anyone outs a large-format OLED-powered TV at CES it's going to be at the luxury end of the market.
3-D TVs too—these will be being showcased like mad, though it's not clear if the programming to make them feasible exists, or if the public actually wants to sit in the living room wearing special glasses to watch TV.
Expect an armload, nay a truckload of smartphones to pop up. They'll be from every manufacturer you can imagine, and they'll all be more or less the same: Dumbphones will get more features to make them look like smartphones, and smartphones of all stripes will be competing to out-smart Apple, Google or RIM.
Look out for more pico-projectors (the next gen, which might actually be useable this year), MP3 players and digital media players. Novel computing systems like the plug computer will probably feature a little, to distinguish themselves from the pile of laptops and desktops. Lots of cameras will be shown, probably pushing the megapixel wars to new heights, though there will be some interest in the low-end DSLR/compact camera crossover market. New printer technology, set-top boxes, kids (and adults) games, smaller/better/faster/cheaper Blu-ray players...all of this and more.
But don't expect to see any Apple gear, officially. Apple's not representing itself at the show—it's decided that specialist press events that are fully under its control in terms of content, venue and timing are far better vehicles for launching new products or product variations.
The big Apple excitement is rumored to be due January 26th, when an apparently already-booked event at the Yerba Buena Centre in San Francisco will see the launch of the Apple Tablet, or the iSlate. The timing would seem sensible—early in the year to stir up hype, long enough after CES that the press is ready to be fired up again, and remote enough from other Apple regular product updates that it's distinct. Wait and see folks.
No Nexus One? Or Lots of Nexus Ones?
Google's got a press event scheduled for tomorrow (January 5th) at which pretty much everyone expects the Nexus One smartphone to launch—Google's thinking on press attention seems similar to Apple's, in this regard. So will we expect to see Google touting the phone around much at CES? Hard to tell—but you could think it would be unlikely, given the special event launch. On the other hand, if you wanted to try to steal lots of Apple's thunder a few weeks in advance, then it could be perfect.