It's that time of year again. The 2012 International Consumer Electronics (CES) show is opening Tuesday in Las Vegas, and this year's extravaganza, as in previous years, could give us a sense of what's going to be hot and what's not.
Ultrabooks: Powerful But Pricey
One of the most-watched items in this year's lineup is the Ultrabook. The super-thin laptops, being offered by such manufacturers as Samsung, Lenovo, Dell, and HP, are seen in some quarters as the next evolution in small, lightweight computing products, following on previous waves of netbooks and tablets.
The Ultrabook spec was dreamed up by Intel. The chip-making giant is eager to get a bigger foothold in the mobile market, trying to invent its own category -- laptops that are generally under three pounds, very thin, with fast boot-up times.
Unlike netbooks, Ultrabooks are powerful and pricey, with most models expected to sell around $1000, give or take. Unlike both tablets and netbooks, they are powerful productivity tools. The key question, which CES may partially answer, is whether they can catch hold.
Wearable Computers: Killer App Awaits
Wearable computers have been a trend that's been "just around the corner" for a couple of decades now, but this year's CES may actually see a critical mass of useful examples. For instance, there's BodyMedia's Armband, which reads 5,000 points of data from one's body -- presumably so one can find 5,000 more health-related things to worry about.
Net TVs: Now Android-Powered
Net-connected TVs are rapidly becoming a standard feature, but increasing levels of on-board intelligence and related features are expected to be on display in Las Vegas. New Android-powered sets are expected from Google, Samsung, Broadcom and others. Nokia has a news conference scheduled for later today, as does AT&T, and major new announcements are expected from both.
Still A Major Force
There's buzz about whether CES is losing its cache as the major technology kickoff event. Microsoft, for instance, said late last year that 2012 would be its last CES show. Several other large companies indicate they are beginning to focus more on smaller shows, specifically brand-specific ones, so that their launches will be more visible.
But Avi Greengart, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis who is attending this year's show, said CES still "has the importance" that it has had in the past.
"When you have 140,000 people attending the show," he said, "including all the buyers, all the carriers... you get an event." More than 2,700 exhibitors are expected at this year's show, compared with about 2,800 last year.
LTE, Four-Core Mobile, Ice Cream Sandwich
Greengart said he expects key releases at this year's show to include devices that can work with LTE 4G high-speed wireless transmissions, tablets and other mobile products with quad-core processors from Nvidia. Also on the horizon are plenty of Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" products, and "lots and lots of things that move video and data to and from the cloud, and around your home."
We'll be covering the show all week, so check back often for all the latest news and products announcements from CES.