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Parting Thoughts from Las Vegas

As we bid farewell to the 2011 International CES, we close with some general observations from the ETC reporting team…

Las Vegas was crowded – really crowded. If the national economy is slow to recover, there was little evidence of it in the Nevada desert. CEA estimates that about 140,000 people attended the show (more than last year and on par with pre-recession levels), and the state of the industry is showing strength. CEA’s Gary Shapiro estimates that consumer electronics spending will show a 6% increase for 2010, to $180 billion, and will rise an additional 3% this year, to more than $186 billion.

If we had to sum up this year’s show in 10 words, they would be: smart, connected, apps, 3D, 4G, gestural interfaces, tablets, tablets, and tablets.

The word that appeared around every corner of this year’s show floor was ‘smart’ – from banners and new product lines to marketing slogans and more. There was no escaping it, as it seems manufacturers now recognize the need to simplify consumer control over the dizzying array of available devices and services.

‘Connected’ everything was another star of the show, especially in regards to television and related services: search, discovery, VOD, and way too many apps to fathom. In fact, it was a challenge to spot a TV that wasn’t connected to Hulu, Netflix, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Yahoo! – you get the idea.

CES presented the connected TV as the center for our new multimedia-driven homes. We saw Hubs, Dashboards, Media Links – all designed to address these needs.

This CE connectivity is reliant upon high-speed networks and we heard a lot in terms of 4G and LTEVerizon, T-Mobile, and others showcased their recently launched networks and collection of tablets and smartphones designed to leverage new speed and efficiency. We found the Motorola Atrix 4G compelling, an Android-based phone featuring NVIDIA’s dual-core Tegra 2 chipset, support for AT&T’s 4G network, and a very interesting laptop dock.

We saw 3D in record abundance – from 3D mobile and 3D gaming to new autostereo displays and a wide selection of prototype and market-ready 3DTVs and laptops.

Sony and Panasonic are sticking with active-shutter, while others – including LG, Toshiba, and Vizio – are touting the benefits of new passive 3D models. Passive displays are being produced at a more reasonable cost and many find passive polarized to be more comfortable. Additionally, the weight of the glasses is an improvement, and they work better over eyeglasses.

For those who believe donning plastic glasses may become the primary obstacle to consumer adoption, a number of autostereo displays were on hand, some that showed real promise and others that were less than impressive.

In terms of gestural interfaces, Microsoft Kinect is already breaking sales records, but the real story here is how gesture technologies will be used beyond video games. PrimeSense showed a system that wirelessly links the PC and TV, enabling access to content from a controller-free 3D system. Imagine what ‘connected’ TV will be like with set-top boxes featuring gesture recognition.

If there was a single breakout star this year, however, it would be tablets.

The Motorola XOOM turned a lot of heads in Vegas. The Android-based device (CNET’s ‘Best of Show’ winner) is one in a growing number of tablets targeting the burgeoning iPad market. Reactions were also positive for the 4G BlackBerry PlayBook which, unlike most of the iPad competitors, does not use Android, but will run on the BlackBerry Tablet OS.

Another tablet not using Android is Samsung’s Sliding PC 7. It runs on Windows, and is a touch-screen device with its own slide-out keyboard. Larger than an iPad but smaller than many Netbooks, it could be the hybrid that many have been hoping for.

We have much more to discuss, especially in regards to cloud-based content hosting and delivery services (i.e. UltraViolet), connected TVs and Blu-ray players with 2D-to-3D conversion capabilities, and more – but we’ll save those thoughts for our post show report which should be available within the next week.

Thanks for reading the blog for this year’s CES coverage. A special thank-you to ETC’s sponsors who make our work possible. Until the next show…

KC Blake, Sarah Blake, George Gerba, Carolyn Giardina, Bryan Gonzalez, Bob Lambert, Michael Lei, Phil Lelyveld, Jack Lerner, Edie Meadows, Nick Nero, Paula Parisi, Adrian Pennington, Rob Scott, David Wertheimer, Joyce Yi

CNET Announces ‘Best of CES’ Winners

Winners of this year’s CNET Best of CES Awards were announced Saturday morning in the lobby of South Hall. With all the buzz surrounding tablet PCs taking over Las Vegas, it’s apropos that a new Android-based tablet would take ‘Best of Show’ for 2011.

Motorola’s XOOM turned a lot of heads this week – from its appearance in the opening keynote to crowded demos in Central Hall at the Motorola booth. The XOOM is one in a growing number of tablets targeting the burgeoning iPad market, but as Bob Lambert wrote in his CES event coverage, Motorola’s solution is compelling, “with Android’s refreshingly thoughtful user interface, growing range of applications and high-speed LTE-based wireless connectivity.” Additionally, CNET reports some interesting distinctions: “(XOOM) comes standard with front- and rear-facing cameras, including one that can record in HD, compared with none in the current version of the iPad. It also boasts a larger screen with a higher resolution, supports Adobe Flash, and uses Verizon’s network instead of AT&T’s.”

We’ll be watching how this potential competition will play out in 2011.

This year’s ‘People’s Voice Award’ went to the Razer Switchblade – an Intel Atom-based, concept design for a Netbook of sorts, designed to bring PC gaming to a portable form factor. Razer has taken the familiar keyboard and redesigned it as a tool for mobile gaming controls (CNET has a great online video demo). By combining a multitouch screen with a tactile adaptive keyboard (the keyboard actually changes on-the-fly based on which game you are playing), Razer presents a compelling solution for portable gaming.

Whether the Switchblade takes off or not, we expect the form factor is something we’ll see with future interface technologies.

Our audience should also be interested in some of the category winners, including: Nintendo 3DS (Gaming), a portable system in which gamers have the option of adjusting the 3D intensity or shutting it off; Toshiba 3D eyeglass-free technology (Prototype), a proof of concept design for 3D laptops that leverages eye tracking software; and the Motorola Atrix 4G (Smartphones), an Android-based phone featuring NVIDIA’s dual-core Tegra 2 chipset, support for AT&T’s 4G network, and an interesting laptop dock.

For the complete list of winners and related articles, visit the CNET Best of CES page. Other awards presented during CES worth noting include:

The CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards program (sponsored by PCWorld)

The 61st Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards (NATAS)

The 4th Annual Mashable Awards (formerly the Open Web Awards)

The 2011 CES Mobile Apps Showdown (created by Robin Raskin of Living in Digital Times)

The 2011 CES Hot Stuff Awards (sponsored by Stuff magazine)

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