While the sets are eye-catching, they will likely be niche products for years to come, if they ever catch on. They have to be really big — more than 60 inches, measured diagonally — to make the extra resolution really count. Also, there’s no easy way to get movies in UHDTV resolution.
“While there’s going to be a lot of buzz around Ultra HDTV, we really think what’s going to be relevant to consumers at the show is the continued evolution of 3D TVs and Internet-connected TVs,” said Kumu Puri, senior executive with consulting firm Accenture’s Electronics & High-Tech group.
Unlike TVs, new phones are launched throughout the year, so CES isn’t much of a bellwether for phone trends. But this year, reports point to several super-sized smartphones, with screen bigger than five inches diagonally, making their debut at the show. These phones are so big they can be awkward to hold to the ear, but Samsung’s Galaxy Note series has shown that there’s a market for them. Wags call them “phablets” because they’re almost tablet-sized.
Microsoft launched Windows 8 in October, in an attempt to make the PC work more like a tablet. PC makers obliged, with a slew of machines that blend the boundaries. They have touch screens that twist, fold back or detach from the keyboard. None of these seems to be a standout hit so far, but we can expect more experiments to be revealed at the show.
“All the PC manufacturers recognize that they have to do things differently,” Accenture’s Puri said.
CES has been a showcase in recent years for technologies that free users from keyboards, mice and buttons. Instead, they rely on cameras and other sophisticated sensors to track the user and interpret gestures and eye movements. Microsoft’s motion-tracking add-on for the Xbox 360 console, the Kinect, has introduced this type of technology to the living room. Startups and big TV makers are now looking to take it further.
For example, Tobii Technology, a Swedish company, will be at the show to demonstrate “the world’s first gaze interaction computer peripheral” — basically a camera that tracks where the user is looking on the screen, potentially replacing the mouse.
PointGrab, an Israeli startup, will be showing off software that lets a regular laptop webcam interpret hand movements in the air in front of it.
Assaf Gad, head of marketing at PointGrab, said that CES is usually full of hopeful companies with speculative interaction technologies, “but this year, you can actually see real devices.”