While having been away for the past year (on mat leave) hasn't kept me 100% up-to-speed on the daily goings-on of the industry, it was easy to catch up (thanks to; warning, horn-tooting here; great articles and content from sources like Marketnews) and look ahead and see what's coming for 2013. As with every year, the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) offers great insight into what will be "hot" for the coming 365 days. Herewith is a list of the top 10 trends we expect to see at the show next week:
Ultra HD & OLED: Displays are always a huge part of CES, both in terms of impact and space they take up on the show floor. Remember a few years back when 100-inchers and larger were the talk of the town? The focus these past few years has been design. It's been resolution. It's been plasma vs. LCD vs. LED. It's been 3D. It's been interactive online content. This year, it looks like it'll be an equal combination of all of the above, with the spotlight on Ultra HD (i.e. 4K) resolution, consumer, large-sized OLED TVs, "floating" and invisible TV designs, and "smart" TV functions with complementary remotes, games, content, and compatibility amongst devices. 3D will take a backseat this year, though it likely won't be completely ignored. It is, after all, an effective crowd pleaser than can elicit plenty of "oohs" and "ahhs" at a show like CES. But most attendees realize that 3D is just sprinkles on top of a much sweeter cake.
Smart-er Phones: Here in Canada, carriers like Bell likes to call these uber-feature-packed models "super" phones. But for the sake of CES, the devices on display will be lauded for pretty well every feature but the ability as a phone. Complementing the aforementioned smart TV functions will be smart phones that can easily communicate with these TVs, plus computers and other devices in the home, through nifty features like Near-Field Communications (NFC) or Wi-Fi Direct.
Connectable Cameras: As PMA has now merged with CES, the digital imaging side of the industry gets special attention. Following from this same theme of connectivity will be what I like to call connectable cameras: devices that boast Wi-Fi features to allow for easy and quick uploading to e-mail addresses or, more likely, social networking Websites. The entry-level digital camera market continues to feel the strain from smartphones with built-in cameras. And one of the major advantages of the latter is the ability to snap a photo and instantly post it online. The imaging industry hopes incorporating such functionality into point-and-shoots will help boost sales, and chances are we'll see plenty of attempts in this area at the show.
Headphones: Though I missed CES 2012, judging from the previous few years, plus what my colleagues tell me, and scanning the massive number of press releases I've been receiving, headphones will once again dominate the show floor. They're available from virtually every major AV manufacturer, plus dedicated audio firms, startups, and companies that specialize in headphones, and only headphones. Plus. There are established AV companies entering the segment this year, like Onkyo. We'll see an abundance of audiophile models, Bluetooth, earbuds, and funky designs. But likely most prominent will be the celebrity-endorsed kind. Some will be for marketing's sake (Justin Bieber, anyone?) But others may focus on using the artist more for touting acoustic capabilities of the ‘phones (i.e. Motorhead's new line.)
Startups: CES will be placing greater focus on startups companies. Not only do they help foster innovation in the industry, but they can also help boost the economy, keep big companies on their toes, and help prove that North Americans continue to thrive and work hard to further technology. That being said, we can expect to see more start ups than usual promoting their wares; from "cool" tech ideas of the "as seen on TV" kind, to neat technologies that could lead to the "next best thing." Some may argue that this industry, which has spent the past few years tweaking, fixing, and enhancing, is in need of that next big thing. Many of the startups will be found in the newly-expanded Eureka Park area of the show, and show-goers (especially venture capitalists) will have fun digging through them to find those hidden gems.
Tablets: The iPad remains the top tablet around, but Android is coming on fast and furious with new models from its partner manufacturers. Even though Microsoft isn't participating in the show this year, its Surface and Windows 8 technology will still have a presence through hardware maker booths. With the onslaught of these new tablets will come more accessories for them; from funky and fashionable cases, to docks and stands, connectors, and more.
Health & Fitness: If there's ever a time to promote health and fitness gadgets, it's early in the year when many consumers are still trying to fulfill their New Year's Resolutions of losing weight/toning up/exercising more/being healthier. This year's CES especially with be a repository of health-related gadgetry; many that can be used with the latest smartphones through third-party add-ons, or even apps, plus others that are meant to promote/aid healthy living on their own. Some will be geared toward the aging population; others to thriving youngsters with hobbies, from cycling to running, skiing, and working out.
Smart Cars: And no, I'm not talking about those teensy-tiny cars made by the Germans. I'm talking about cars with smart features; from being able to park themselves, to sophisticated in-dash systems that do everything from play your music wirelessly to direct you to your destination through turn-by-turn directions, and even provide a view of what's behind you. Oh yah, and all of that can be controlled by your voice. Keep an eye out for exhibits from the likes of Ford and others; plus aftermarket companies like Pioneer, for some interesting things to come in this space.
Mobile Payments: The NFC technology being built into more and more devices, from smartphones to TVs, isn't just for communication between AV devices. It's also integral to things like contactless payments, which allows a consumer to pay for products by simply holding a smartphone, or other device, up to a compatible terminal. This already exists today for small ticket purchases like fast food, coffee, and gas. But imagine when mobile payments are deployed on a larger scale. This will drastically change the retail landscape as we know it, so it's an area not to be ignored. We'll be investigating further at CES, and stay tuned to our February issue where we'll discuss the topic and how it affects the retail community in depth.
Everything "i": For yet another year, Apple will get away with not appearing at the show, yet maintaining a significant presence with booths showing the latest and greatest in accessories for the iPod/iPad/iPhone in the aptly-named iLounge. It goes without saying that the focus will be on the new iPhone 5 platform, and making use of its enhanced features; from camera-related accessories and apps, to gaming products.
The 2013 International CES takes place January 8-11, 2013 in Las Vegas, NV. Stay tuned to this Website for daily coverage from the show; and make sure to subscribe to the Marketnews Mag Page on Facebook; and follow us on Twitter @MarketnewsMag for up-to-the-minute updates.