As the days counting down to CES 2012 grow fewer and fewer in number, it’s time once again to think about what we might end up seeing. CES is easily the most important tradeshow in terms of consumer electronics and other consumer tech for the rest of the year; as a result, the exciting show is always a mixture of easily forecast trends and a few surprises out of left field.
Trend #1: All-in-ones leading the way
We’ve talked before about how the all-in-one (AIO) is the future of the desktop, and CES 2012 is just going to further that ideal. Several PC manufacturers have confided how the all-in-one model is changing the way they produce desktop computers – it’s becoming the new “mainstream” PC. Just a few years ago, the market was filled with models of every description at every price point – now, traditional desktop computers comprise the low end and the high end of the market, and AIOs are firmly entrenched in the middle.
Apple has really set the standard in this area, and their iMac has become the most popular desktop – of any stripe – sold in the US today. Taking their cues from Cupertino, manufacturers such as HP and Lenovo have come a long way toward making up the differences, with the latter two creating some of our favorite models on the market.
All-in-one computers have become popular with consumers thanks mostly to their inherent lack of complexity relative to a traditional model. Instead of hooking up a desktop to a monitor, a keyboard, a mouse, speakers, a power cord, maybe a Wi-Fi antenna, yadda yadda yadda, all you have to do is plug one cord into the wall and bam, you’re ready to go.
Regardless of whether you’re an experienced computer user or a relative newbie, the lack of cords and complexity when you open a new PC is a welcome respite from the norm.
Trend #2: 3D…everything
3D has hit the mainstream, and now it’s everywhere. Companies are putting 3D into more and more affordable computers, and we’ve seen more than a few AIOs even that offer the functionality. There are now several monitors on the market capable of showing 3D content, and new options that come in at $200 or below.
Cheaper models, like those alluded to above, typically employ what’s called “passive” 3D technology, or auto-stereoscopic parallax or lenticular displays. These units can generate 3D content from 60Hz signals, and only require a pair of polarized glasses in order to view the content. This is all opposed to an active 3D display technology, which requires display panels (and inputs) capable of receiving a 120Hz video source, and active shutter glasses to view the content. Both of these requirements make this tech much more expensive – if much better, in terms of 3D quality and effects – that passive models.
We’ve seen more movies and games brought out recently in 3D, or with 3D modes, than ever before. Both major graphics makers support multiple kinds of 3D technology, we’ve seen Sony and Nintendo support 3D in the PS3 and 3DS, just about every TV manufacturer has brought out 3D models…the list goes on and on. CES will continue to reinforce this movement, regardless of how the populace at large feels (which, according to recent studies, is lukewarm at best).
Trend #3: High-speed peripherals
Between USB 3.0 and Light Peak / Thunderbolt, we have two high-speed standards that are slowly being adopted by the industry at large. What makes these interconnects so valuable and groundbreaking is how they enable expansion in computers previously limited by age or form factor.
All-in-ones, for example, are popular with mainstream society, but often eschewed by the enthusiast PC segment. The reason? It’s mostly their inflexibility and lack of expandability. High-speed standards such as USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt get around many of these problems – the both of them allow for speedy storage arrays and extra displays, and Thunderbolt is spacious enough to act as a port for upgrading primary systems such as the graphics card.
At IDF this fall, we saw a few Thunderbolt-powered accessories that companies are planning – at CES, we’ll likely see more plans and the first of these companies’ final products. As a result, form factors that previously limited functionality, like AIOs, home theater PCs, ultrasmall form factors and more, might see a resurgence in interest in the coming year.
Expectations, hopes and fears
These were just three of the things we expect to see at CES in a few weeks. How about you? We’ll be following up in the coming days with what we hope to see at the consumer electronics mecca and even what we’re afraid we’ll see. Sound off and let us know about your hopes and fears for tech in 2012!