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Trend Lines: CES 2012

Where is the big, beautiful, mind-numbing showcase of technology pointing us to this year? Rajiv Makhni finds out.

brunch Updated: Jan 28, 2012 18:30 IST
Rajiv Makhni

Four days, 5,000 companies, 20,000 new products, 1.861 million sq ft net, 1,53,000 attendees. And poor little me to cover it all on my own.

CES (Consumer Electronics Show, Los Angeles) is a big, beautiful and mind-numbing showcase of all that the rest of the year will throw up from the world of tech. It’s also where you see clear lines and trends as to where technology will go.

This week, let’s look at the new direction this mammoth event has pointed us towards. Next week, we’ll do a two-page photo spread of the best and worst gadgets of CES 2012.

Smart tvTV: The centre of our universe again

From being one of four screens, TV came back to being the main one and with bang.

Apps that made sense for a large screen hanging on a wall; true connectivity to the Internet for real features; the end of the remote control and the start of voice, gesture and face control; making 1080P look bad with 4K and even 8K (mindblowing surreal clarity) resolution; glassless 3D that turned a gimmick into a must-have; and OLED finally moving from expensive, overblown hype to something we all will be able to buy and bring home.

Verdict: While I’m not really sold on this whole voice and gesture control thing, the rest is all solid. Once we have 4K OLED Glassless 3D TVs with full wireless Net connectivity and smart apps, the TV will be the God device and not the smartphone. TVs are back and how!

Ultrabooks: UltraExplosive
This was rumoured to be the year of the Ultrabook but it turned out to be far more than that. With more than 50 new models, Ultrabooks dominated in design, features, material usage and showed maximum innovation.

From transformer-like Ultrabooks to morphing ones, from powerhouses to 22-hour battery life wizards and from thin, knife blade-like designs to pure yoga (we’re talking about the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, of course!), the Ultrabook had the crowds, the buzz and the demand.

Verdict: Ultrabooks are killing it and will dominate the computing space for a long, long time. Netbooks, it may well be time to pack up your small bags and move to redundant city.

Tablets and smartphones:

Maturity and refinement
Both of them grew up and showed a level of true sophistication in ease of use and operations. While the quest for thinnest and lightest continued (Huawei and Toshiba won), it wasn’t about a single killer feature anymore.

Each new device in each category matured and blossomed into a powerhouse device that truly put the user first.

Outstanding battery life, great utilities built in, fantastic ergonomics, true ecosystem and flawless performance were the hallmarks here.

Verdict: It’s getting difficult to distinguish between what a small Tablet or a large smartphone can do. But boy, do they both do amazing things. Any manufacturer that tries to sell a device based on a single cool feature will die a gory death.

Smart Devices: Everything talks to everything
A washing machine controlled by a smartphone 20 km away; a refrigerator that mails you a shopping list as soon as you enter a grocery store; a microwave that connects to your phone and gives you step-by-step video to cook the perfect dish; and a robotic vacuum cleaner that glides out of its enclosure and starts work as soon as you leave the house and sends you messages of cleaning up progress on your phone.

It’s a world where machines talk to machines – intelligently and for a reason.

Verdict: It’s a little unnerving to see it happen but machines and appliances are getting smarter and will make life very easy for us. A very lazy future awaits us.

Cameras: The new optical wonders
The camera phones made standalone cameras look quite foolish for a while. Now the standalone cameras seem to be rising from the ashes. They can already do what a camera phone does – but now they’ve pushed the boundaries further.

All of them have hit fantastic optical refinement, have pushed megapixel capabilities to the hilt, are WiFi-enabled and some are 3G ready too.

They can do automatic backups to a computer, post instantly to Twitter or Facebook, upload to Picasa and do in-camera editing and special effects. But the new killer feature is a remote screen control.

Use a smartphone or Tablet as your control screen, put your camera in a faraway location, control zoom, exposure, brightness and framing and even take the picture from your remote screen. Now which camera phone can do that?

Verdict: It’s good to see innovation coming from a dead category. Camera phones, what will you do next?

The real winners of CES 2012(and they don’t even know it)
Two companies came out as the real winners of the event. Microsoft, which has said it won’t even be there next year and Apple which wasn’t there at all. Microsoft won hands down as Ultrabooks proved how important Windows as an operating system was and how it still dominates this space.

Windows Phone devices and the OS had the biggest crowds around it and some of the best phones came from there.

The Windows 8 demo had the whole of CES salivating. Apple, because almost anything and everything that any company at CES did was to either compete with Apple (iPhone killer, iPad killer, MacBook Air killer) or to add on to Apple (the largest space was an iLounge for Apple accessories).

Verdict: Apple and Microsoft are being solidly foolish if they plan not to be there in 2013. Cook, Ballmer, wake up and smell the CES.

Those were the trends, now for the real meat. Next week, all the gadgets and devices that rocked and socked at CES 2012. The best and the worst. Coming up: two pages of pure tech heaven!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com/RajivMakhni

From HT Brunch, January 29

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