CES2012: Our Top 5 Hopes

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Today is the first official day of CES 2012, and it starts in just a few hours. Last week we talked about some of the things that we expect to see in the next few days, and now we’ll talk up some of the things we hope to see at the show this week. Agree or disagree? Let us know.

Hope the first: Truly smart televisions.

Well, we’ve already been clued in to the growing smart TV trend here at CES, but it’s worth mentioning all the same. Until very recently, home media use has been sharply segregating into computer use and television use. In the past year or so, however, the lines have become increasingly blurred; while HTPCs haven’t really made larger inroads, smart boxes have arisen – Apple TV, WD TV, Google TV, Boxee, etc.

Samsung showed off their latest smart televisions yesterday, and we got some hands-on time with Lenovo’s own Idea-branded, Android-powered television (sorry: China-only, for now). Smart TVs mix Internet and local features to wildly expand the capabilities of the typical television. Watching a movie but can’t remember who that actor is? Pause the show (or heck – let it play!), bring up IMDB, find other movies he’s been in, add them to Netflix and see if his latest feature is at your local theater. Yeah, you can do a lot of this just from a tablet while you’re on the couch, but tablets and laptops are individual experiences. Bring it up on the TV, however, and you can have a big discussion with your friends or family about what you find.

Hope the second: Truly high-resolution screens.

Guys, it’s 2012. 2012! We’re in the future, but screen resolutions mostly haven’t exceeded 1080p or 1200p – minus the 2560×1440 and 2560×1600 panels you’ll find in a few 27-inch or 30-inch screens. Even then, while the overall resolution goes up, the density of that resolution goes down, so the number of pixels per inch isn’t all that high.

The release of the Apple iPhone 4 gave the general public its first look at a screen offering an uncommonly high resolution. It’s one of the best screens that you can buy these days, and it forced other phone manufacturers to step up their game – just check out the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which offers a 4.65-inch OLED screen with a resolution of 1280×720. 

Heck, back in 2004 or so, my 15-inch laptop have a screen with a 1920×1200 panel in it, and it was outstanding. Really great! Everything was exceptionally sharp. So why have we backed off from this ideal?  Hopefully, these new mobile devices will change all that. Smartphones are now shipping with high-density screens. Tablets, for the first time shown here at CES, are shipping with 1920×1200 screens in ten-inch form factors.

Please, just one desktop monitor with some ridiculous resolution – that’s all I’m asking for. High resolution density means super sharp text and crystal clear images. With the rise of QuadHD technology, we might actually start to see this happen. QHD is promising to be the next standard in HD television, offering a resolution of 3840×2160. It’s commonly called 4K. I just want it 4ME. 

Hope the third: Truly high-speed wireless networking.

If you want to connect all the different parts of your house over the network, you have two options: wireless connections, and wired connections. Wireless connections are so convenient. They don’t require you to string cabling everywhere; you just plug in a dongle or two (or none at all, for most notebooks) and connect, and you’re good to go! But they have an achilles heel – they’re slow. Even the latest generation 802.11n wireless protocols, which are the fastest consumer wireless connections by a margin, are slow. As a result, transferring data over these wireless networks is such a pain; so much, in fact, that many people just don’t do it.

Wired networks overcome these speed problems. By running a physical cable and directly connecting your computer or Internet appliance directly to your router, you can transfer your files at over a hundred megabytes per second – it approaches and occasionally surpasses the speed of local hard drives. But they’re a pain to set up, since you need to, as stated, directly connect all of your computers and TVs.

802.11ac is a budding wireless standard that takes advantage of the open, and still-uncrowded, 5GHz wireless spectrum. It promises to actively transfer data at speeds that come close to these wired connections. Suddenly, backing up data becomes a breeze. Your next-gen iPad syncs to your next-gen desktop in just a second. 802.11ac obviates, for most people, that need for physical connections. Hardcore gamers, and those who rely on mimimal-latency connections for communications, will always want that cable. The rest of us? Bring on the scissors.

Hope the fourth: Truly hands-free computing.

Microsoft’s Kinect has hit a few snags in its rollout, as the games produced for the technology don’t seem to be living up to the hype. The tech itself, however, has received nothing but rave reviews. In other words, it’s just cool. Tinkerers and researchers have expanded the capabilities of the Kinect peripheral beyond what Microsoft even hoped, and as a result, the company has taken a second look at how they can integrate Kinect into the rest of their product ecosystem.

We know that Kinect will be coming to Windows 8, and possibly Windows 7, sometime this year. That’s the plan, anyway. But Kinect also offers voice command compatibility, and Apple’s Siri, which is going through similar rollout snags, has shown that people like the idea of talking to their computers. So CES, let’s see some new computing paradigms. Gestures to scroll through your movies. Eye tracking to open programs. Voice dictation to check the weather and send email. Dances to play music. Wait, I got that one backwards.

Hope the fifth: Truly different form factors.

The desktop market, whose death has been predicted a million different times by a million different people, is possessed of this immovability that has withstood the test of time. But they’re changing, and most recently that change has seen the rise of the all-in-one desktop, which puts the computer and display into a single box.

Recent advances, however, have delivered low-power chips and chipsets, really tiny boards and really thin displays. Can we combine these to make something new and ridiculous, please? A affordable multitouch computer that sits in your coffee table and replaces all of your board games. A 15mm-thick display that runs a small Android installation and provides a touchscreen Internet experience in your living room. New form factors that can live in your kitchen and show your email or help you cook Christmas dinner.

Some of these have been tried, and some haven’t, but technology has reached a point that they’re finally all feasible. So can we see something new and different and legitimately exciting? All-in-ones, especially Lenovo’s new multitouch model, are awesome.  Honestly. But let’s get those creative juices flowing.

Do you agree? Hope to see any of these? Hope to see something else? Let us know!

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