With consumer confidence in the economy supposedly on the uptick, some 3,000 vendors will descend on Las Vegas in January, rolling out more than just traditional hardware like PCs, tablets and smartphones but also software apps and intriguing new gadgets to expand your connected lifestyle, manage your health and home, and even spruce up your car.
The CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) will play up apps through two new events this year, CES officials said this week in New York City at CES Unveiled, where companies gave sneak peeks at products ranging from Blu-ray players and PC gaming keyboards to a new Web-based, video-enabled medical diagnostics system expected to show up in drugstores throughout the US.
According to the latest CEA research, "tablet computer" is number one on adults' gift wish list for the 2012 holidays, followed by "money," "peace/happiness," "smartphone," and "notebook/laptop computer." However, consumers will also give apps and other digital content. One quarter of holiday shoppers will give digital music gift cards. Other popular choices will include gift cards for apps, ebooks, and online games.
Meanwhile, people are now starting to use tablets and smartphones as "hub connection" devices, running apps that allow them to control specialized devices for health and fitness and home management, for example, noted Steve Koenig and Shawn DuBravac, two CEA analysts, in a presentation at CES Unveiled.
New 'Appy Hour' and 'MoDev Hackathon'
In one of the two new apps events, Appy Hour, the CEA will feature a new device app on the Web each day from December 3 to the start of the show in January.
In the other, the CEA MoDev Hackathon, teams of developers will duke it out on January 9 of next year for a $25,000 prize, building new apps during CES directly in front of showgoers.
Apps for Microsoft's Windows 8 PCs will be eligible for both events, along with apps for mobile platforms such as Android and Apple's iOS, said Karen Chupka, the CEA's senior VP for events and conferences, speaking with NotebookReview at CES Unveiled.
TV and movie entertainment, of course, will be another big focus, as always. This year, UltraViolet -- an entertainment consortium honing in on Web-based entertainment delivery -- will host an area of its own at CES.
Flat panel TVs didn't make it into consumers' "top five" wish list for the 2012 holidays. Still, in another CEA finding, while fourth-quarter TV sales will be flat this year (at 10.5 million) in comparison to last year, sales of TVs with huge screens 60-inches or over will rise.
Previews of New Apps & Accessories Everywhere
At a product showcase just after the CEA talks, new PCs, tablets, smartphones and TVs were hard to find. Previews of new apps and accessories were everywhere, however.
New PC accessories on display ran the gamut from Harman/Kardon's AirPlay (a DLNA-enabled BDS 577 Blu-ray Player designed to resemble a slick piece of furniture) to Mad Catz's powerful-looking new S.T.R.I.K.E 7 gaming keyboard.
Kurio did show a kids-oriented tablet. XPAL Power Inc. gave journalists a gander at an upcoming disposable mobile phone called the SpareOne, which runs on two AA batteries and is meant for distribution to victims of hurricanes, floods and other disasters.
Also on view were Sony's touch-enabled XAV-HD701 Smartphone Connected AV Receiver, for accessing smartphone apps from your car, along with Gspot, a peripheral from Chinese manufacturer Gpod for adding extra SIM card slots to your phone.
"Gspot is kind of an unfortunate name for the US market," noted a CES staffer, after listening to a bit of snickering from reporters. "I think they'll probably need to change the name before releasing the product here."
Elsewhere on the show floor, LG highlighted a new technology for displaying content from Sprint and AT&T smartphones on TV screens.
Monitoring Your Door Locks, Fitness Level & Baby
In the home management arena, Belkin previewed a new WeMo Baby device and app for monitoring the baby's room from your smartphone.
Lowe's showed off how its Iris app (available since July in Web, Android and iOS flavors) is already enabling remote management of home devices that include motion sensors and thermostats. The app works with a wireless hub enabled for 802.11 Wi-Fi, Zigbee and Z-Wave communications in the home. This week, Verizon Wireless announced support for Iris over its mobile network via USB modem.
At CES, Lowe's will announce more Iris-capable devices from its product partners, said a rep from the home improvement store chain. These will include a home garden irrigation system plus a new type of door lock which can be remotely locked or unlocked from a PC, smartphone, or tablet.
For health and fitness, HealthSpot showed its Web video-based medical diagnostic system, aimed at offsetting a shortage of medical doctors in some areas of the US.
Now being beta tested in Ohio, the system is aimed mostly at use in medical emergencies, to spare people from waiting days for a doctor's appointment, HealthSpot envisions installation of the remote diagnostics system at drugstore chains such as CVS and Duane Reed, a spokesperson said.
Over in the booth next door, BodyMedia revealed plans to unveil a free, "temporary" version of its armband for fitness tracking during CES 2013. The theory is that, after trying out the disposable edition for a week, users will be able to get a better idea of how Web-assisted fitness tracking might help to improve their fitness levels.
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