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Partly a glimpse at tomorrow, partly a tech bacchanalia, and wholly a spectacle, the Consumer Electronics Show, January 8-11, is too large for the Las Vegas Convention Center's 3.2 million square feet to accommodate. More than 3,000 companies display upwards of 20,000 products to an anticipated 156,000 attendees, meaning Sin City's casinos and hotels are as full of Ultrabooks, tablets and other gadgetry as they are of slot machines and card tables. Even with Apple's indifference for trade shows and Microsoft's scaled-down presence, CES remains the Super Bowl of tech trade shows.
The show is oriented more around consumer electronics than business needs but InformationWeek is there to cover the breaking news. What IT professional's inner geek isn't tickled, after all, by the sight of giant televisions, futuristic concept cars or cameras that let you focus a picture after taking it?
Plus, the enterprise won't be left out in the cold. One the one hand, there will be no shortage of items destined to be advertised as impulse purchases at a Best Buy checkout counter. On the other, many of the to-be-announced products will factor into lingering questions that affect the workplace, especially in its current, BYOD-driven form. Will the new Ultrabooks and convertibles threaten the iPad's dominance? How many OEMs are going to embrace new standards, such as 802.11ac and its supercharged wireless speeds? Will Intel make headway in mobile phones?
We may have some answers by the end of CES, but with other, more specific events on the horizon, such as NAB Show and Mobile World Congress, it's possible some queries might persist even longer. But whether it's the maturation of the Internet of Things or whatever Samsung's getting at with its peculiar teaser image of a vertical TV, you can be sure that CES will satiate -- and quite possibly overload -- even the most ravenous followers of new technology.
To whet your appetite for this techno-feast, and to demonstrate the variety of products that will be on display, we've collected nine of the hottest products that we know will be making appearances. Interested in a really smart car, slick new ultrabooks, or really fast wireless connections? Perhaps you need waterproof earphones, or are looking for a BIG TV set to watch the SuperBowl. Read on to get a taste of what's to come at CES 2013.
CES will host more than 500 companies that make tech aimed at the automotive industry. The roster includes major automakers such as Audi, Hyundai and Ford; the latter will showcase its EV+ technology. Originally announced in November, the technology allows a vehicle to learn a driver's favorite destinations and use the information to optimize power consumption. Available for Ford's C-MAX Energi and Fusion Energi plug-in hybrids, as well as the regular hybrid editions of Fusion and C-MAX, EV+ combines a vehicle's built-in GPS with proprietary software that identifies frequently visited locations and adjusts how power is stored in the battery. If a motorist is within 200 meters (about 0.12 miles) of home, for example, the car can remain in electric-only mode, with the internal combustion engine shut off. EV+ technology is part of a portfolio of around 500 hybrid-specific patents that Ford has accrued as it embraces the role software will play in modern vehicles. The company has a history of demonstrating compelling tech at CES, so EV+ might be just the tip of the iceberg for automotive aficionados attending the show.
Aimed at professionals, the Chronos boasts impressive specs, including a quad-core Intel processor, up to 16 GB of RAM, up to 1 TB of storage and a dedicated graphics card with 2 GB of memory. Just 0.82 inches thick, it should still be sturdy, thanks to its aluminum body. The 15.6-inch screen supports 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution, and Samsung says the computer can run up to 11 hours between battery charges. The Ultrabook also includes a RAM accelerator that is designed to increase app and browsing speeds by up to 150%.
With a 13.3-inch screen, the Series 7 Ultra is smaller than the Chronos, but, like its sibling, it offers 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution and an aluminum enclosure. Designed as a multimedia laptop, it includes either an Intel i5 or i7 processor and an AMD graphics card with 1 GB of memory. Battery life is advertised at around eight hours, and the Ultrabook has the added benefit of 4G LTE connectivity.
Both models offer the full Windows 8 experience thanks to touch-enabled screens.
While some of the Ultrabooks at CES, such as the Samsung models on the previous page, will focus on slimmed-down iterations of the traditional laptop form factor, there should be an array of convertible devices as well. One will be the MSI Slider S20, which, after being previewed last summer, will finally hit the market in Q1 of this year. Combining a tablet and a laptop into one device, the Slide S20 sports an 11.6-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel touchscreen, 128 GB of SSD storage, 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, two USB 3.0 ports, and an integrated 720p webcam. At a light 2.2 pounds, the computer packs a lot of power into a small package -- but at $1,199.99, the device will be among the pricier Windows 8 Ultrabooks on the market.
3-D TVs have been all the rage at CES the last few years, but it's likely that 4K ultra-high resolution TVs will be one of the major talking points this year. The Sony XBR will be one of the models packing in extra pixels; with a 3840 x 2160-pixel display, it offers four times the resolution of today's 1080p sets. Not a lot of 4K content is available right now, but the XBR is equipped to connect directly to Sony's library of available titles, and to upscale lower resolution media. The television can also link to popular Internet services such as Netflix, Pandora, YouTube and Facebook.
Gamers might be particularly interested in the model; when combined with a PlayStation 3 and special glasses, the XBR offers gamers split-screen views that retain a full HD image -- perfect for many multiplayer titles. And 3-D enthusiasts aren't forgotten either; the XBR supports the extra dimension, just like recent CES predecessors.
Being at the bleeding edge of home entertainment doesn't come cheap, though; at $25,000, the 84-inch TV won't be showing up in many living rooms.
Wilocity's 60-GHz multi-gigabit wireless chipsets are advertised as offering a tenfold increase in speed relative to legacy Wi-Fi connections. In November, the company announced that it had partnered with Qualcomm to supply these WiGig-enabled components for Dell's Latitude 6430u, and it's a good bet that additional computers will showcase the tech at CES.
Compatible with millions of existing Wi-Fi products in the 2.4-GHz or 5-GHz bands, these chips can detect which band will offer the best performance and automatically connect. Don't get lost in dreams of ultra-charged wireless browsing just yet, though; WiGig is most effective over relatively short distances. While that might not mean screaming download speeds as you browse your Ultrabook at the local cafe, it does mean that many of the peripherals that are physically connected to your computer can now connect without cables.
Valencell's PerformTek biometric system records health and fitness data that ranges from heart rate and speed to the number of calories burned. Licensable to integrate with earbuds, the technology will allow portable music players to provide gym-goers with not only a soundtrack, but also a series of assessments about their performance. Captured data can synch to a smartphone app in real time, which should make tracking progress easy, and armbands and wrist devices are on the Valencell roadmap. The first products should hit the market in Q1.
If GoPro's recent advertising has inspired you to document your cat's high-speed pursuit of all things small and elusive, you'll probably get a kick out of BeeWi's Scara Bee. Injecting some light-heartedness into the CES proceedings, Scara Bee is a toy car that can be controlled by Wi-Fi via an app that's available for both iOS and Android. Where do the cats some in? The miniature vehicle includes a camera so that you can record all the details of its various missions, feline-centric or otherwise. Embarking on those missions is fairly pricey at $150 -- but because the Scara Bee is designed for both indoor and outdoor use and can connect to a smart device from up to 99 feet away, it should be able to handle most quests you throw at it.
Many CES attendees either know someone afflicted with hearing loss or are affected by the condition themselves. While a number of hearing aids are on the market, many are fragile and unsuitable for sports and other activities. Siemens hopes to change this with Aquaris, a hearing aid that's not only dustproof and shock-resistant but also suitable for continuous use in the water. What's more, the device uses Bluetooth to allow users to enjoy their portable music players or listen to a message on their smartphones, even when the user is submerged in the pool.
All the major consumer camera manufacturers will be at CES, but many will simply be showing off existing products. Canon, for example, is not expected to bring anything new to the table, having just completed a busy 2012 in which it released not only high-profile DLSRs such as the 5D Mark III, 6D and 1DX, but also the compact EOS M series. (Well-heeled nature and sports photographers might be intrigued by the potential appearance of the long-awaited 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x, an undoubtedly awesome lens with a sure-to-be terrifying price.)
Samsung is one of the few who will definitely be touting new photography equipment -- namely the NX300, the just-announced flagship of the company's line of mirrorless cameras. Equipped with a big 20.3 MP APS-C sensor, the device should boast the image quality of a traditional DSLR while, thanks to a design that eschews an optical viewfinder and its requisite mirror, maintaining a small form factor. With an ISO range that extends to 25600, the camera should be able to handle dim conditions that stymy smartphones and compacts, and its ability to connect to an iOS or Android app over Wi-Fi should make sharing photos easy. A 3.3-inch AMOLED screen, meanwhile, means that pictures viewed on the camera itself should be vibrant and crisp.
Samsung has struggled to gain traction in the mirrorless market, which is filled with mature offerings from Panasonic and Olympus, as well as newer offerings from Nikon and Canon. The NX300's ability to use an optional 45-mm lens to shoot photos and 1080p video in both 2-D and 3-D is a potential differentiator -- but it will be up to CES attendees to dictate whether the new model is worthy of showroom buzz.