"Smart technology — really?" Jane Lynch, LG spokeswoman, quipped in a video that the brand brought to last week's Consumer Electronics Show tech confab in Las Vegas. "Just exactly what do you mean by smart technology? Smart like Einstein? Smart like LG products can read my mind? Are you telling me my refrigerator will know things, like what I'm craving right now?"
Yes, Sue — brands and tech just got a whole lot smarter and connected, as was amply in evidence on the show floor at CES 2011.
A major theme at CES 2011 was the inevitable merger of television and the Internet. The major question, as picked up by the New York Times and embodied by Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes's surprise appearance during Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg's keynote address: will it happen with or without the major cable and satellite distributors?
Bewkes used his moment in the spotlight to pitch TV Everywhere, the multiplatform content vision he came up with and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts blessed, making it the US cable industry's rallying cry against the proliferation of web TV.
Cisco and Sony paraded smart TVs importing Internet content, with Sony CEO Howard Stringer announcing a worldwide advertising campaign, “Television Redefined,” that will bow this year.
Google’s Rishi Chandra introduced Google TV to FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, with the comment: “The idea here is to work with cable…right now we’re limited.” Genachowski’s response, “They’re incentivizing the cable companies to innovate.”
Time Warner Cable announced the start of delivering programming to Sony and Samsung television sets, bypassing the set-top cable TV box. “We want to use all this technology to make a better consumer experience,” said CEO Glenn Britt.
John Chambers, Cisco CEO, added that “video is the next voice,” as he announced Videoscape, a cloud-based platform that blends television and Internet video sources.
Cisco and Motorola’s prototype, “MediOS,” lets users shift television shows and Internet video from one screen to another, and track what their friends are watching.
CES 2011 also highlighted consumer willingness to start spending again as CEA President Gary Shapiro’s keynote predicted revenues would increase 3% in 2011 to $186.4 billion.
"People are using technology to erase the boundaries between home and work, here and there, virtual and real. They imagine access to everything at their fingertips and they want it now, no matter where they are or what screen they have at hand,” stated Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg in his keynote address.
Networks that support enhanced connectivity were evident in showcases from Verizon and T-Mobile of their recently launched 4G networks and smartphones and tablets available for them.
On the connected car front, Ford, GM, Audi and Toyota were all in attendance and buzz of cellular connections in cars was rife, and OnStar announced it will soon offer a rear-view mirror add-on for all its services to every car owner.
In the second act for 3D television, Sony and every other TV manufacturer focused on sets and partnerships that will deliver more in-home content. Sony unveiled a prototype for 3D LCD sets that don’t require 3D glasses (above).
Motorola Mobility, which spun off from Motorola and went public last week to focus on consumer devices, unveiled the Motorola Atrix smartphone that doubles as a PC replacement with desktop and laptop docks; its Xoom tablet (top); and the Droid Bionic, one of the first high-powered smartphones running on Verizon’s LTE 4G network.
Following Verizon Wireless’ recent launch of its 4G LTE network, they went live in Vegas and unveiled 10 LTE devices set for launch in the first half of 2011 including Motorola’s Xoom Android tablet in partnership with Google and Verizon, and the HTC Thunderbolt.
NVIDIA’s dual core Tegra2 was ubiquitous — showing up in smartphones, tablets, and car-tech announcements, as the company announced its “Project Denver” in partnership with ARM and the launch a super-powered CPU the size of a dime. As all of next generation computing is scaling up to run servers and PC’s — NVIDIA is poised to “become the Intel of the next great wave of computing.”
Speaking of computing — and looking to take market share from Apple's behemoth, the iPad — the ubiquitous presence of Android-friendly tablets and slates left one brand in the cold. Microsoft didn't show anything new in that department, although it did make a lot of noise promoting a tablet-ready version of Windows, and made even more noise promoting Xbox Live, Avatar Kinect and Windows 7.
As for celebrity buzz, 50 Cent took the stage to promote his Sleek-branded headphones, while Lady Gaga demoed the first products planned for her Grey Label collaboration with Polaroid. Rapper Ludacris showed up to promote his soon-to-be released line of headphones, and musician T-Pain hawked his new microphone.
A brief overview of brands and products that emerged at past CES shows why it's a show to reckoned with:
1970: The VCR
1974: The Laserdisc player
1975: ‘Pong’ by Atari
1981: The Camcorder and the CD Player
1982: The Commodore 64
1985: The Nintendo Entertainment System
1995: Microsoft Bob
1996: The DVD
1999: The DVR
2001: The Xbox
2003: Smart watches
2004: The Blu-ray Disc
What do you think will be the next hot consumer tech to emerge from CES?