Opinion: What will it take to drop jaws and eclipse Apple at CES 2012?


With CES getting officially getting underway on Monday, and announcements already starting to trickle out, I thought it would be interesting to ask what it will really take to shine at this show. To most people, that means eclipsing Apple and the public’s current iPad fixation. Unlike some pundits, I don’t think the next big thing will be an iPad clone. Interestingly Samsung just passed Apple as the largest cell phone maker, but then again, the iPhone is old news. Microsoft tried to beat the iPod with the Zune, but what really beat the iPod was the iPhone, and what beat the iPhone was the iPad. The challenge wasn’t to have the highest-selling product, but to have the product folks were talking about the most and lusting after.

The way you’d beat the iPad isn’t by building a better one, but to create what folks will line up for next. Let’s talk about what a contender might look like.


If you think about it, the iPhone was a hybrid between a phone and an iPod. Basically, it was an iPod Touch with phone features. Ironically, Microsoft had an internal meeting prior to the creation of either the iPhone or the Zune, and a number of executives felt that rather than building the Zune, Microsoft should have built an iPhone-like device. Eventually it did with the Windows Phone 7, but only after the Zune had failed and the iPhone had largely begun to run its course.

The iPad is a hybrid of an iPod Touch and a netbook, or basically an iPod Touch with a 9.7-inch screen. As folks tired of being excited about the iPhone, the iPad caught their interest. This would suggest the next big thing might be a hybrid.

Apple is reportedly working on a hybrid of a TV and an iPad, or an iPad with an incredibly large screen that would replace a TV. However, TVs have been really hard for technology vendors to sell (Gateway, HP, and Dell all failed at selling them). The market refresh on TVs is still pretty new, since TVs have an expected service life of seven years. The end result is that even a great product might be difficult to sell because too many people have sets that are too new.

lenovo x1 hybrid 01

Another coming hybrid is a hybrid notebook computer, and these come in two flavors. The first was the Asus Transformer, which was a table that doubled as a notebook, and the most recent is the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Hybrid, which is a notebook that blends an ARM processor with an x86 processor. Currently, these products run Android or a blend of Windows and Linux, but with the release of Windows 8, a seamless hybrid model could take hold, and folks could find it compelling. Microsoft is rumored to have $750 million focused on the Windows 8 launch (the Windows 95 launch, one of the biggest on record, was only around $250 million). The combination of strong marketing and a sexy product could be that next big thing.


Intel’s big push is Ultrabooks, and a number of vendors will be launching versions next week. These are MacBook Air-like products designed to provide the weight and battery life advantages of a tablet with the usefulness of a notebook. Intel is rumored to have $300 million targeted at this offering, and some of the products you’ll see next week are like personal art. Later, derivative products running Windows 8 will have a touchscreens, and that enhanced experience could make it the next big thing.

Amazon Super Fire

The Amazon Kindle Fire was the one tablet product that did reasonably well against the iPad last quarter, selling around 25 percent of the volume of Apple’s own flagship product. Amazon could take the Fire up-market, using its competitive user interface and services coupled with a heavily subsidized price to undercut Apple, while continuing to provide more comprehensive entertainment collections through its media properties. The end result could be a next-generation tablet that could displace the iPad in consumers’ hearts and minds.

qualcomm-marisolOutdoor viewable displays

The Qualcomm Marisol division is close to releasing its next-generation transflective display in volume, which could result in next-generation cell phones and tablets that can be easily used outside. This could potentially make Mirasol-equipped devices far more attractive than current the iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad offerings, and some of the first devices to adopt the technology might even come from Apple. Rumors are flooding the valley about an impending launch of a new iPad, and were it to either have an extremely bright LCD or next-gen transflective display, even recent existing iPad users would likely buy it and enjoy their iDevices outdoors more.

A significant enhancement like this could be a game changer, and start those lines forming.

Something different this way comes

Apple has had hit product after hit product, but with Steve Jobs gone the likelihood this can continue is sharply reduced. Still with the right product, not a clone of what Apple is currently offering, the market could likely be turned to the latest shiny thing. Something will eventually eclipse the iPad, just as the iPad eclipsed the iPhone, the iPhone eclipsed the iPod, and the iPod eclipsed the Walkman. We’ll see if a candidate emerges at CES. Last decade, the only company capable of eclipsing an Apple product was Apple. We’ll see if that continues post Steve Jobs.

Guest contributor Rob Enderle is the founder and principal analyst for the Enderle Group, and one of the most frequently quoted tech pundits in the world. Opinion pieces denote the opinions of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of Digital Trends.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Home Theater

Budget TVs are finally worth buying, and you can thank Roku

Not all that long ago, budget TVs were only worth looking at if, well, you were on a budget. Thanks to Roku, not only are budget TVs now a viable option for anyone, but they might even be a better buy than more expensive TVs.
Product Review

It's not the sharpest tool, but the Surface Go does it all for $400

Microsoft has launched the $400 Surface Go to take on both the iPad and Chromebooks, all without compromising its core focus on productivity. Does it work as both a tablet and a PC?

These cheap laptops will make you wonder why anyone spends more

Looking for a budget notebook for school, work, or play? The best budget laptops, including our top pick -- the Asus ZenBook UX331UA -- will get the job done without digging too deeply into your pockets.
Home Theater

An acclaimed Apple analyst says the new AirPods are coming in 2019

Apple plans to release new AirPods much the same as it does new iPhones, and a wireless charging case, water resistance, and better Siri integration are among the improvements we can expect in future models.

Smartphone makers are vomiting a torrent of new phones, and we’re sick of it

Smartphone manufacturers like Huawei, LG, Sony, and Motorola are releasing far too many similar phones. The update cycle has accelerated, but more choice is not always a good thing.

Do we even need 5G at all?

Faster phones, easier access to on-demand video, simpler networking -- on the surface, 5G sounds like a dream. So why is it more of a nightmare?
Home Theater

The Apple AirPods 2 needed to come out today. Here are four reasons why

Apple announced numerous new products at its October 30 event, a lineup that included a new iPad Pro, a MacBook Air, as well as a new Mac Mini. Here are four reasons we wish a new set of AirPods were on that list.

Razer’s most basic Blade 15 is the one most gamers should buy

Razer's Blade 15 is an awesome laptop for both gamers, streamers, professionals, and anyone else needing serious go in a slim profile, but its price is out of reach for many games. The new Blade 15 Base solves that problem with few…

Going to hell, again. The Switch makes 'Diablo 3' feel brand-new

I've played every version of Diablo 3 released since 2012, racking up hundreds of hours in the process. Six years later, I'm playing it yet again on Nintendo Switch. Somehow, it still feels fresh.

‘Fallout 76’ may have online multiplayer but it’s still a desolate wasteland

"Is Fallout 76 an MMO?" That depends on who you ask. Critics and players often cite its online multiplayer capabilities as a reason it qualifies. Yet calling the game an MMO only confuses matters, and takes away from what could make…
Digital Trends Live

Microsoft has #*!@ed up to-do lists on an epic scale

Microsoft has mucked up to-do lists on a scale you simply can’t imagine, a failure that spans multiple products and teams, like a lil’ bit of salmonella that contaminates the entire output from a factory.

As Amazon turns up the volume on streaming, Spotify should shudder

Multiple players are all looking to capitalize on the popularity of streaming, but it has thus far proved nearly impossible to make a profit. Could major tech companies like Amazon be primed for a streaming take-over?

Throw out the sandbox. ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ is a fully realized western world

Despite featuring around 100 story missions, the real destination in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the journey you make for yourself in the Rockstar's open world, and the game is better for it.

‘Diablo Immortal’ is just the beginning. Mobile games are the future

Diablo fans were furious about Diablo Immortal, but in truth, mobile games are the future. From Apple and Samsung to Bethesda and Blizzard, we’re seeing a new incentive for games that fit on your phone.