Thursday, January 5, 2012

Five key stories to track during 2012 CES

Kumu Puri

USA: Here are five key stories to track during the upcoming 2012 CES.

Ultrabook mania to push back against tablet mania
If the last Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2011) was the year of the tablet, the ultrabook is shaping up to be a CES 2012 show stopper. Ultrabooks are an increasingly competitive product category of laptop computer and tablet. They are being positioned as more feature-rich and comprehensive in functionality than tablets, yet smaller and lighter in weight than typical laptops and desktops. The ultrabooks represent a new market that sits between traditional PCs/laptops and tablets—a threat to both market segments.

Typically running the Windows 7 OS, they are extremely thin (generally around .8 inches thick), lightweight (under three pounds), speedy laptops with virtually instant start up times, with longer battery life than tablets. Screen sizes range from about 11 to 13 inches and are generally priced in the $700 to $1,100 range.

During CES12 as many as 20-to-40 ultrabook models could be introduced. Of particular note will be US companies that introduce these given that, so far, non-US companies are the main industry players.

A maturing of the mobile ecosystem; smarter, more powerful devices
Mobile connected devices are central growth drivers in the consumer electronics market. Expect to see more powerful, better connected tablets and smart phones at CES12. Such devices will be more “pocketable,” rather than “portable,” and therefore deliver a richer mobile experience. These pocketable phones will be lighter, more energy efficient, more “app friendly,” have larger, brighter screens, and offer an innovative user interfaces. Also, look for continued new product innovations in the e-reader product category.

CES12 will also feature numerous wireless providers and exhibits including Alcatel-Lucent, Audiovox, Blackberry, Ericsson, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. Expect lots of activity around mobile payments/near-field communications, mobile-centric applications, social media integration, 4G, and avenues by which wireless providers can better serve and charge the connected consumer.

Always on. Always connected
Always on, Always Connected consumer electronic devices, spanning a wide range of applications and industries, will be a big story at CES12. Expectations are for a strong showing of interconnected devices that operate in the background of our everyday lives, delivering a richer experience. A record number of auto manufacturers are likely to be onsite, unveiling new innovations in connected smart cars: tablet integration; Internet radio solutions; in-vehicle apps and driver safety technology.

CES12 will also demonstrate how the functionality of the Internet is expanding as connected sensors and intelligence are added to physical items. For example, connected home technologies ranging from kitchen appliances, to entertainment systems, to the house itself. CES12 will have numerous sessions looking at innovations in the connected home including the role of service providers in monetizing these opportunities.

At CES12 it will also be interested to watch what TV manufacturers are doing to demonstrate capabilities of “smart” TVs.

Other potential Always On. Always On developments to look for at the event include:

* More momentum in the telematics arena. Tremendous gains in road capacity and efficiency can be had with the always on, always connected capabilities of telematics. Cities are linking networks of sensors and cameras to track weather conditions and traffic flow, helping to reduce congestion, air pollution and fuel consumption.

* More mobile commerce developments that will affect banking, retail and advertising industries; similarly, more momentum towards banks enabling their customers to use a mobile device to check balances, transfer money, pay bills, apply for credit or manage their personal finances. And more activity in the mobile wallet market. Owners of small retail shops can use their handsets as a cash register to receive payments; larger retailers can let customers scan their phones to pay automatically.

Digital health
A special summit is planned examining digital health product and services for earlier prevention and detection, clearer patient/doctor communication, shorter hospital stays, faster recovery times, lower insurance costs, digitized patient records and much more. Look for developments around doctors’ use of tablets in hospital emergency rooms to boost their efficiency and reduce time spent burdened by technology.

Also, look for two other potential developments: first, archiving and storing medical images in vendor-neutral, enterprise-wide repositories within remote clouds; and second, consent management, which is a system, process or set of policies within the Health Information Exchange for allowing consumers and patients to determine what health information they are willing to permit their various care providers to access.

At the event you can learn more about devices that consumers can use for managing their health in collaboration with their physicians. Among the possibilities are new types of blood pressure, glucose and implant monitors as well as medication tracking devices.

Windows 8 showcase
Windows 8 is likely to be a major story as Microsoft may introduce its Windows 8 public beta, WinStore beta, and preview its online market community. Demos of Windows 8 on Intel- and ARM-based tablets are probable. Many manufacturers will likely demonstrate how their products will use the new operating system.

Expect a lot of news about Windows 8 in the tablet space as the OS has been tailored for better power efficiency and touch screens. The same applies to Microsoft’s OS for smartphones (Mango), which already debuted but may be showcased on a series of next-generation phones.

The author is a senior executive with Accenture’s Electronics & High-Tech Group. She leads the consumer electronics practice.

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