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CES 2012. Bottom Line Ц Trends and Prospects
About 150K people visited CES 2012 and the expo has proved once again that it is the main event for the mobile market in North America. However, its significance for the mobile phone market is continuing to decline because the American mobile market is getting more and more locked to carriers which means there soon won't be any big mobile phone announcements. Carriers will never demonstrate a whole new range of products for the coming year Ц their business works differently. Besides, American carriers use phones that are slightly different from their European brothers and phones are often released with a big delay on the US market. That is why AT&T made a presentation at CES but did not have a showroom as well as Sprint who also only cared to throw a few presentations. Events like CES are pointless for carriers they use other techniques.
That is also why the importance of World Mobile Congress in Barcelona grows rapidly. It will be the venue where all the major mobile announcements of 2012 will be made. At CES the biggest phone announcements were LTE versions of phones and there were no really next gen products except for Fujitsu and their Tegra 3 phone (Nvidia's mobile quad core GPU). In Barcelona HTC and Samsung are going to do the same thing and announce their new flagships. And though Nokia 900 became the best phone in Las Vegas no one will care for it and its mediocre specs after Barcelona.
In 2011 CES was inundated with announcements of dual core phones and tablets. CES 2012 was a lot quieter. Manufacturers no longer want to rush and they were mainly talking about dual core experience but told us very little about the upcoming new products.
I was wrong to expect CES 2012 to be buried under same old tablets but running Android ICS 4.0. there were lots of tablets but manufacturers seem to have lost their former enthusiasm after being hit hard by iPad they now prefer to create exotic niche products or leave the tablet market for good. Apple with their only tablet are imposing the price limit on all other manufacturers. Amazon Kindle Fire, on the other hand, represents the lowest price bar for tablets and it costs exactly half of iPad's price. Although it is not strictly speaking a tablet and is designed for Amazon services. Some manufacturers accepted the price war challenge in Asus will be releasing a 7Ф tablet this summer for just $249 (it specs will be comparable to late 2011 tablets).
This is a market's backlash Ц manufacturers are a lot more cautious now and are afraid of big losses. It is, of course, apparent that we will see quad core tablets that will be a lot faster but everyone seems to have put up with the idea that iPad will remain the king of the tablet market.
Now I want to talk about the biggest trends of CES 2012 that will soon become development priorities for all manufacturers.
Smart Homes: From Sockets to Washing Machines
Over the last decade practically every manufacturer presented their own smart home concept that allows you to control your domestic appliances and devices through a single mainframe. But none of them made it to the market. Different approaches used the stereo or the desktop PS as the mainframe while some even rejected the idea of a centralized system. As of today, it seems that it is going to be your TV set that will be in charge of your home.
The TV is probably on of the few devices that every household has as more and more people stop using desktop PCs. Smart TVs will become mainframes of future smart homes. At last manufacturers seem to be making real progress in this area and I think that in five or ten years we will be able to buy the first smart home systems. This process will be slow as people don't buy large domestic appliances very often. But I am glad that we can now see the outlines of smart homes.
Another reason to start believing in smart homes becoming real is the large number of smart electric sockets at the expo that can be controlled remotely via the home network or Wi-Fi. They not only help you conserve energy but can also turn on your appliances on a schedule. However, there is yet no single solution of how to integrate these sockets with the TV mainframe.
I am sure this year the smart home concept will be becoming more and more popular and more domestic appliances will become compatible with current network standards. Obviously, this is our future and now we observe the birth of it.
The Incredible TV
Sony's TV departments have not been profitable for eight years in a row but the TV market is so important that the company cannot afford to lose it. Sony is not the only one and many other manufacturers are in the same situation: they lose money making TVs but don't want to ditch the initiative. It is possible that in 2012 Apple will enter the TV market and change the game.
Today a TV manufacturer can only survive by introducing some new features to their TVs like gaming, smart home etc. You can no longer impress anyone with picture quality. Another way to make TV business was demonstrated by Samsung who presented a smart window which is basically a transparent display. The shutters is just a projection, you swipe and the window becomes fully transparent. This is something right from Sci-Fi movies that suddenly became real. In my opinion this was one of the most interesting products at CES 2012.
In 2012 all manufacturers will be trying to pack their TVs with new unique features.
Electronic Watches: The New Generation
CES makes you feel the latest trends in fashion. You see many companies rushing to occupy a market niche that appeared just yesterday. In 2012 electronic watches are in fashion again. This trend was laid out by iPod Nano with wristband accessories but at CES you could find all sorts of electronic watches from sports to music variants.
In my articles on CES 2012 I have mentioned such watches as MOTOACTV for sports, the new generation of Sony Live View for health monitoring and some others. Now I want to tell you about I'm Watch by an Italian company. I expect products like this one (smartphone watches) to become more popular in 2012. Plenty of similar products were presented in 2011 and in 2012 manufacturers will try to get them to the mass market. They will hardly revolutionize the market but some of them might become successful.
I don't like when manufacturers exploit 'i' as a reference to Apple products because it is a terrible case of lack of originality.
I'm Watch is a wrist watch running Android 1.6 with a 240x120 1.55Ф screen protected by a sapphire glass. It weighs 70g/2.5oz and they look a lot bigger than iPod Nano but they are also a lot more functional. It is a real phone that even has a mic and even a loudspeaker so you may use it without earphones. It features all the basic functionality such as mail, Twitter, facebook, SMS and so on. The screen is really small but it is quite ok in use. Check out this video demo:
Its Italian decent means that it is a available in many variants. It can have 64 or 128MB of system memory. The first one will cost you $330 while the 128MB version is $390.
There is a whole collection of bodies for the watch: carbon body ($1400), titanium ($769), magnesium ($660). For connoisseurs there is even a jewel collection: silver body ($1500), golden body ($16.000) .
It is the scale of the approach that really impressed me Ц the manufacturer is anything but thrifty. I don't think his product will become popular but it is a pioneer of this 2012 trend.
Starting from January 1, 2012 Google discontinued its Google health service that allowed you to store information about your health. I don't know why this happened but I am sure that it will be restored in some new way.
2012 will bring a market boom for fitness devices, healthy lifestyle, med apps for smartphones and accessories (from BP monitors and glucometers to Geiger counters). The US mHelath market is estimated to be worth $60 billion in 2015 although some analysts mention $100 billion net worth. So it is totally worth for manufacturers to fight for a piece of that market.
I have two questions concerning health apps: Will there be a fee or will they be free? And what will be their distribution model? The first sales of Jawbone Up proved that people like the concept but this device failed due to poor quality and was withdrawn from sale. It is nice to see a completely new market niche. Of course, there were other similar services before like Nike+ and Adidas miCoach but they are designed for athletic people while mHealth targets everyone and it is a really great initiative.
New Thinking: The Fewer The Better
At the expo I talked to many reps of different manufacturers and they all mentioned that their companies want to concentrate on fewer products to raise their quality. I think this is also a very important trend Ц manufacturers will be playing their key products. I also hope that HTC will no longer hit us with five flagships at once that cost about the same and you find yourself completely confused and don't know which one to choose. 'The Fewer The Better' is a 2012 trend I personally like the most.
Unfortunately, 2012 was rather dull and there were no revelations made. This expo targets the American market and presents some future tech and products. Its influence on the European market is not that big even though technologically the US market is getting farther and farther ahead of Europe. I hope the thirteen articles I wrote on CES 2012 is enough to give you some food for though and an idea of what was going on in Las Vegas. I think I told you everything worth your while about CES. Thank you all for your comments and discussions. Stay in good humor and good luck to you.
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Published 26 January 2012
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