Thoughts from CES 2011

by Jonathan Stovall

Instead of simply reporting on the coolest new gadgets — and believe me there were plenty — I’d rather share with you the new products that will soon be entertaining us, and the technologies that will make our lives a little easier in 2011.

Apple

Although Apple didn’t officially partake in the festivities again this year, their products had tremendous influence up and down every aisle inside each convention hall. It seemed everyone had an iPad with their own app running on it. (By the way, Apple is closing in on 10 Billion App Store downloads!) Before the show even began, Apple announced they would open the Mac App Store on January 6th, allowing Mac users to use apps in a similar manner that they do on their mobile devices. This means even as we look to CES for the latest innovations in the wider industry, the computer world will be looking to Apple to see its future.

Also this year, the non-Apple mobile device manufacturers were stepping all over themselves to become the first ‘iPad killers’. In my opinion, few improve on certain things the iPad can’t do but fall way short on delivering a pleasant and simple overall experience.  Tablets operating on the Android OS seem to be picking up the most steam and the best of those appears to be the XOOM (see below).

Motorola

I got a hold of the new XOOM tablet soon to be available through Verizon. XOOM offers a slightly larger screen than the iPad, and includes front and rear cameras, combining with Google’s own Google Talk video-calling software built in. That should be a step up from the third-party applications and services bundled by other vendors. Motorola said the XOOM tablet (available in February) will be the first to run Google’s slick new Android Honeycomb operating system.

Speaking of Android…

Smartphones continue to amaze me each year. While tablets of almost every size and shape dominated the media coverage, consumer-electronics makers also showed off the next generation of handsets. They will be smarter, faster, and more versatile than those in our pockets now. Motorola’s Atrix 4G phone, for example, has an Nvidia dual-core microchip—that’s more processing power than the laptop you owned four years ago—and can end the need to carry a separate computer by plugging it into a lightweight laptop with no processor of its own.

Many of you have been asking if Control4 will launch an Android app. All I can tell you is that it is still being worked on and we will hopefully see something by Summertime.

HDTV’s & 3D

2011 promises to be the year where we’ll finally see multiple manufacturers produce flat panel displays in the 65” – 72” range. So if you’re itching to get that large panel, we’ll have a few choices for you relatively soon.

For the large TV manufacturers, CES 2010 was all about 3D and this year it was no different. Toshiba and Sony showed prototypes of 3D televisions that dispense with the dorky glasses but oblige viewers to sit directly in front of the screen. It’s an early glimpse of a technology that the companies say is still several years away. It will be interesting to see which one makes it on the shelves first. Toshiba seemed confident that they will be ready by 2012. Before no glasses 3D is viable, it must allow for wider viewing angles and must also be affordable.

One of the problems with 3D is that there just still isn’t enough content. 3D Blu-Ray movies are becoming available, but at a snail’s pace. There is also some 3D content being supplied by cable and satellite TV providers but that’s slow going as well. If 3D is expected to grow, more content across all platforms needs to be accelerated.

Sony announced a new 3D camcorder. The most unusual characteristic of this double-lensed shooter is the touchscreen viewfinder that doesn’t require glasses for you to see its 3D effect. I laid my eyes, and fingers, on its remarkable 3.5-inch touchscreen and was impressed with its unencumbered view and depth. You’ll have to wait until April to pick up one of these bad boys, so get your $1,500 ready!

Green Technology

GE showed several products that will help bring us the power and potential of the smart grid. Residential wind and solar power generation products, electric vehicle chargers, and LED lighting to name a few. Folks across the country are using these products and several of our clients have shown interest as well. The LED light bulbs I saw are looking more and more like the softer lit incandescent products we all know and love, and by summertime they should be fully dimmable. Soon we’ll be replacing light bulbs with products that will last as long as a new TV!

Google TV

Despite the many poor reviews, I was still impressed with my first glimpse of Google TV. In particular, the Logitech Revue product. The interface basically allows you to watch what you want wherever it comes from – the Web or TV – on your HDTV. For $299 you get a small box and an intuitive wireless keyboard. We simply connect it to your TV by way of your CATV or Sat Box, along with an Internet connection. Add in a small camera and you now have your own personal video teleconferencing setup! We will have one on display here at our showroom. If we get it to work reliably enough we’ll be offering them with our systems soon enough.

Gaming

Gaming systems have always been popular with our Clients and now many manufacturers are concentrating on new products with Gestures & 3D. There are two gesturing products out there that are competing with the Nintendo Wii. They are the Microsoft Kinect and Sony Move. The Kinect targets the same demographic as the Wii while the Move is aimed at hardcore gamers. The PS3 remains the lone 3D gaming console and 3D gaming may develop slower than the suddenly crowded gesture-based market. It’s a major task to design and program a full-length 3D game.

One last thing about Gesturing technology: I believe this will be huge! Not only for the gaming industry, but also for automation systems in general. Soon there will be sensors built into not only electronic devices, but into the walls and ceilings of our homes, motor vehicles and businesses—designed to entertain and automate our lifestyles beyond what we can ever imagine.

These are exciting times for us and we look forward to sharing these new technologies with you every step of the way!