The next decade may be upon us, but in case you haven’t noticed, so is a budget-busting worldwide recession. Jetpacks and holodecks may have to wait. While some naysayers already have this year’s Consumer Electronics Show chalked up to a bust on account of penny pinching (there will “only” be 110,000 attendees this year!), we think the pace of technology will still manage to yield some extraordinary gadgets. And hey, with manufacturers paying extra attention to price tags, you might actually be able to afford some of it when it shows up in plastic wrap later this year. With that in mind, a few clues from the inside, and copious imagination, we’ve cooked up a list of predictions for CES. How many will come true? Stay tuned and you’ll know whether we’re prophets or fools by the end of the week. Here’s what you may or may not have to look forward to:
Ereaders already proved they’re more than novelties this holiday season when Amazon sold more eBooks than physical copies, but it’s going to take more than more memory and bigger monochrome screens to produce a showstopper at CES. Our best bets: Color electronic paper screens, or the long-awaited flexible displays. We’ve already seen both technologies demonstrated. For instance, Fujitsu’s FLEPia has already boasts full color reproduction in Japan, and the Readius, still in concept form, offers an unfurling, scroll-like screen. But you still won’t see either technology in the mainstream, and we think that’s about to change.
The 120Hz tech needed to make 3D work on the small screen has already reached a reasonable price point. So what’s the hold up? No one has produced a viable format for storing consumer 3D video yet. Or had, until Dec. 17 when the Blu-ray Disc Association finalized specs for fitting 3D content on standard Blu-ray discs. The box office success of James Cameron’s Avatar also piqued consumer interest in 3D movies holidays. Expect a slew of 3D-ready stereoscopic televisions, and maybe even some 3D Blu-ray players to match. Three-dimensional smurfs could invade your living room by the end of 2010, folks.
Aside from the usual menagerie of supercharged gadgets, many of the spec sheets for this year’s hot items will make just as many waves for the digits after the dollar sign as the digits before Ghz. From oversized netbooks to smartphones that slice the usual $200 price point in half, we expect to see some major bargains emerging alongside novelties for the ultra-wealthy. In other words, a good year to look and touch.
Expect to see Al Gore’s favorite color slathered over just about everything this year, as marketers latch onto the current craze in guilt-free consumerism by toning back power consumption. From taming real power hogs like televisions to putting a purely superficial spin on already-lightfooted Wi-Fi routers, the green theme will remain alive and well at CES 2010 – and, we suspect – no less disingenuous. Will we see a laptop made of hemp? A Blu-ray player that recoups energy from discs spinning down? A solar-powered photo frame? Only time will tell what depths manufacturers will scramble to in order to produce that elusive green glow.
Just as Blu-ray is dipping down into the realm of affordability, streaming has become the buzzword de jour for television geeks. Unfortunately, the technical niggles of setting up a home theater PC or configuring a console to do the job have kept it in the geek zone. Next-gen set-top devices will make tapping into it even easier, making cutting cable less of an adventure in wires and resolution and more of an obvious next step past cable television. Plug into the TV, tap out your Wi-Fi password, and watch Arrested Development 20 seconds later. Full 1080p resolution should be the order of the day on these boxes – even if current content providers don’t yet offer much in that realm, and we would be surprised to see any of them destined for the mainstream sporting prices over $200.
No Show Stealer
We really, really hope this one proves false, but with Apple and Google both expected to drop potential game changers at their own, separate January events, the prospects of a single item dominating the attention at this year’s show seems slim. Even so, few expected last year’s Palm Pre to bring the attention it did, so we won’t rule out “one device to rule them all” at CES 2010.