10 Quick Hits From 2012 International CES – John Mulhern III

By any reasonable measure, 2012 International Consumer Electronic Show was a huge success. More than 3,100 companies were present, displaying over 20,000 new products in 1.85 million square feet of display space — the equivalent of over 30 football fields. More stories and product reviews will follow in the next few months, but here are ten quick hits from this year’s CES.

1) UltraBooks are big, because Intel is making it so — pouring money and marketing muscle into making lightweight Windows notebooks as hip as the MacBook Air. There were many UltraBook introductions at CES: ASUS, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Lenovo all announced product. We’ll be reviewing an ASUS ZENBOOK UX31 shortly.

2) Reasonably priced Thunderbolt peripherals are finally hitting the market. LaCie and Seagate introduced mainstream hard drives (LaCie with 1.0 TB and 2.0 TB Little Big Disks and Seagate with a Thunderbolt adaptor for their GoFlex drives) while Belkin showed a port replicator. With this and Lenovo’s announcement of a ThinkPad Edge with a Thunderbolt port, it looks like this connectivity standard may actually be taking off.

3) Television manufacturers are backing off 3D as a primary selling point and moving on to “smart TV”. The most interesting new television was Samsung’s ES8000, which has a dual core chipset, a camera, a microphone, and will be upgradeable every year through a rear slot.

4) Tablets are back, this time with some real business plans. Samsung (who seems to be gaining traction in this market) announced several new tablets, including the Galaxy Note — a 5.3-inch display with stylus input. Motorola Mobility introduced the Droid Xyboard in 8.2-inch and 10.1-inch sizes, and promised that they wouldn’t make the same mistakes they did with the Xoom a year ago. Notably, this year there were no tablet vendors making fun of the iPad or touting Adobe Flash capability — quite a change from last year.

5) Smart homes for the masses may finally be taking off. One very interesting approach was shown at the NextGen Home Experience. Philadelphia-based Martin Architectural Group was previewing their standardized CoreWall smart home concept, which will be formally introduced at the 2012 International Builder’s Show in February. We’ll be following up on this later in the year.

6) The eternal battle between OEM and aftermarket automobile electronics manufacturers is hotter than ever. Audi, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, and Mercedes all showed introduced or update telematics systems (Cadillac’s CUE is gorgeous) while Pioneer introduced an update version of its AppRadio, Alpine introduced better smartphone connectivity, and Kenwood substantially upgraded their GUI.

7) As always, there was some weird stuff at CES. Thermador introduced an induction cooktop with a color touchscreen, LiftMaster showed a garage door opener with a battery back up and an iPhone app, and who could ignore the Tablet Teddy Bear — perfectly sized to hold your child’s iPad.

8) 2012 looks like make or break for Windows Phone to become a relevant ecosystem. Nokia made their contribution, introducing the Lumia 900 LTE phone for AT&T. The Lumia 900 and its really nice Carl Zeiss optics were almost certainly the biggest smartphone introduction at CES.

9) Cameras are still a big deal at CES. The two biggest introductions were Canon’s PowerShot G1 X large sensor zoom compact (an interesting combination of features) and Nikon’s D4 professional dSLR (their next generation top of the line camera with a plethora of additional video features). Adobe also announced the public beta of Lightroom 4.

10) There were many products in the “Why didn’t I think of that?” category. A good example was iGo Audio’s home theater stands that integrate an amplifier and multiple speakers into the stand itself. The top-of the line version (the HAV-R500G) supports up to a 70-inch television, has five speakers and two subwoofers, and three HDMI inputs.

John Mulhern III, posted 1/19/2012

For more information on the International Consumer Electronics Show visit: www.cesweb.org