CES 2012 Preview: 3DTV Football, Ultramobile PCs, Wireless, and Some Gadget Sneak Peeks

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With CES 2012 now entering the near horizon, what will we ultimately see at the annual trade show extravaganza in January? Despite the ongoing recession, you can expect a bigger product exhibition area in Las Vegas this year, along with live boxing, 3DTV football broadcasts, a concert by the band Chicago, and product rollouts that will include tons of new ultramobile PCs and tablets, a camera that lets you adjust the focus after you’ve taken a photo, and hordes of other intriguing gadgets.

More specifically, exhibition space will amount to 1.7 million square feet. Slated to run from January 10 to 14, one day longer than in past years, CES 2012 will lure more than 2,700 exhibitors and 140,000 attendees from 40 different countries to Las Vegas, said CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro, during a CES Unveiled press preview in New York City this week.

One exhibitor, ESPN, will host the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) college football championship game on 3DTV at the Hilton Theater on January 9, the eve of the show, plus a series of “sanctioned” boxing matches to be held live right inside Central Hall on Thursday, January 12.

Monster, a company known until just this week as Monster Cable, will present an invite-only concert by the band Chicago as part of its annual Retailer Awards.

PCs, notebook and desktop software, digital cameras, printers, in-vehicle technology, smart home appliances, and an assortment of distinctive gadgets are all sure to prevail at this year’s CES show, just as always.

Leading up to CES, consumers will spend more on electronics products this year than last, partly because more retailers will launch Black Friday deals just before Thanksgiving, said Shawn G. DuBravac, the CEA’s chief economist, also at the press event on Tuesday.

Although leaks certainly happen, vendors exhibiting at CES tend to keep a tight lid on their CES product announcement plans, generally disclosing information in advance only in NDA briefings, if at all. Yet in a mini-expo directly following this week’s CES Unveiled press conference, some vendors did preview gadgetry scheduled for official announcement at the show in January.

Further on in this article, we’ll give you sneak peeks at four of these products: new cameras from both Lytro and Samsung, Wi3’s WiPNet, and Sanyo’s CloudFTP.

A wider focus on wireless

Meanwhile, CEA research shows particularly strong interest in wireless products right now, DuBravac said.

Accordingly, then, the show will add a TechZone this year called Access on the Go, honing in on tablets, eReaders, and other devices for consuming content such as movies, music, and e-books.

Another new TechZone, sponsored by the MEMS Industry Group, will depict how MEMS technology is being used in tablets, smartphones, game consoles, and other gadgets.

In addition, speakers will talk about wireless technology in conference sessions such as To 4G or Not to 4G, Planet of the Apps, and Smartphones: Hot Features and Trends. Major wireless exhbitiors at the show willl encompass names like Motorola, LG, Samsung, Ericsson, RIM, Nokia, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

Events at the show will continue to include the Mobile Apps Showdown and the Last Gadget Standing, two popular mobile products contests. CES will also continue to run the iApple‘s iPad, iPhone and iPod devices.

Other TechZones will include Sports and Fitness Tech, Sustainable Planet, Digital Health Summit, and Eureka Park, a TechZone for entrepreneurs.

Tons of ultraportable PCs and tablets

At CES 2011, vendors introduced more than 100 new tablet models, DuBruvac said at the press preview on Tuesday. This year, tablets will “continue to emerge, even though 10 percent of households already own one,” he noted.

DuBravac predicted more new tablets this year in 7-, 9-, and 10-inch flavors, along with more new 5-inch hybrid phone/tablet models.

CES, of course, won’t just be about mobile and wireless. By the way, other research by the CEA shows that “nearly all tablet owners also own a traditional computing device” like a desktop computer, notebook PC, or netbook, and that the same holds true for 96 percent of smartphone owners.

The average “owning household” in the US owns 3.02 computing devices when PCs, tablets and smartphones are all taken into account, DuBravac wrote in a recent analyst report. During his presentation on Tuesday, DuBravac said he foresees the introduction of 30 or more new ultraportable PC models at CES this year.

PC makers now on the exhibitors list for CES 2012 include AsusLenovo, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Sony, and Toshiba, to name just a few.

Microsoft’s Ballmer to keynote (again)

With Windows 8 now emerging, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will deliver a pre-show keynote on the evening of the 9th.

Other CES keynoters will include Paul Otellini, president and CEO of Intel; Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the board of Daimler AG; Hans Vestberg, president and CEO of the Ericsson Group; and Paul E. Jacobs, chairman and CEO at mobile device chip company Qualcomm.

Outside of the wireless and mobile conference fare, other conference tracks will include Digital Hollywood, Content in the Cloud, Business Insights, Higher Ed Tech, Government 2012, and Home Entertainment and Lifestyle Technologies, again to name just a few.

It’s fair to say, though, that Windows 8 is unlikely to be ready for general release in time for CES 2012. While Ballmer might shed more light on Windows 8 during his keynote, you probably won’t see much in the way of shiny new Windows 8 PCs and tablets on the show floor, (unless, perhaps, they’re running pre-release software). Here are sneak peeks, however, at four products you will be able to take a close-up look at in January.   

Gadget sneak peeks

Lytro plans to introduce a camera at CES described by the company as, “the first light field camera that allows consumers to instantly capture interactive, living pictures and then focus them AFTER they are taken.”  Reportedly, you can then keep readjusting the focus endlessly. The camera uses a type of sensor that captures “light fields,” or bands of light moving in several directions in the view of the camera. Availability is schedued for mid-2012, said a company rep on Tuesday.

Samsung, for its part, will announce a pint-sized integrated WiFi camera and wireless router aimed at use in home surveillance or as a baby monitor. Unfortunately, our own camera chose the wrong moment to malfunction, and a usable photo couldn’t be found online. Yet the new unit’s compact and unobstrusive form factor is a key differentiator from Samsung’s earlier efforts in this arena. The camera folds out from a circular base. Samsung didn’t have a spec sheet on hand in its booth at CES Unveiled, but the entire contraption is small enough to hold in one hand, and the base doesn’t seem to measure more than a couple of inches high. 

A Samsung rep said that after registering the device on a secure Web site, you’ll be able to view what the camera is capturing from any PC, tablet or smartphone that’s connected to the Web. When the camera senses motion, it will record the event privately in either Samsung’s cloud or your YouTube account and send you an alert mesage.

Another product set for rollout at CES, Wi3’s WiPNet, lets you link together your devices wirelessly through a WiFi and Ethernet layer running on top of the coax wiring in your home. All you do is to replace your existing TV wallplates with in-wall WiPNET ports. WiPNET is also designed to let you maintain your existing TV services.

Sanho, on the other hand, will announce CloudFTP, a pocket-sized adapter intended to turn any USB storage device into a wireless file server. The gadget is aimed at letting you share multmedia files through WiFi across PCs, tablets and smartphones in your home, or to devices located elsewhere by uploading the files to cloud services like Dropbox, Box.net and iCloud.

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