Page last updated at 09:24 GMT, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

3D TV, e-readers and tablet PCs to debut at CES show

By Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

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Some of the most eye-catching gadgets from the Consumer Electronics Show

Connectivity, 3D, e-readers and tablet computers are the trends to watch at the world's biggest technology conference in Las Vegas this week.

The Consumer Electronics Show, CES, is famed for presenting new technologies before they hit the market.

In the past, landmark innovations at CES included compact disc players, the VCR, high-definition TV and Blu-ray.

"CES is still a huge deal. It's a giant showcase for the industry," said Charles Golvin, of Forrester Research.

"In the context of the economy, 2009 was where many of the long-time participants re-evaluated their commitment to the show and reduced their spend. This year I think we will see a little bit more glitz and glamour compared to the more sombre mood of last year," Mr Golvin told BBC News.

In 2009, attendance at CES was down around 20% to 110,000 people.

For the beginning of the new decade, attendance is expected to be up slightly with around 2800 companies preparing to show off 20,000 products to journalists, bloggers, analysts and industry movers and shakers.

"There is no way 2010 can avoid being a better year than 2009," said Van Baker, principal analyst at Gartner Research.

"Nobody is counting on a barn-burning year but everybody thinks it will be much better than last year. It needs to be because the consumer electronic guys really hurt last year," said Mr Baker.

3D everywhere

So what are the technologies that will make the big headlines in 2010?

"The noise is all going to be around 3D TV," said Gartner's Mr Baker.

The size and scope can seem obscene at first glance
Maggie Shiels
Technology reporter

"While 3D movies had some measure of success, I think we are some way away from 3D TV becoming mainstream."

Several manufacturers seem to differ from that view and companies like Sony, Samsung and Panasonic have announced plans to sell 3D TV to consumers in 2010.

"3D is a big deal. Every TV manufacturer is putting on a 3D push," said Jason Oxman, a spokesman for the Consumer Electronics Association.

Industry tracker DisplaySearch estimated that one million 3D TVs were shipped in 2009 - less than 1% of overall TV purchases. That number is expected to rise to nine million in 2012.

"I personally think 3D is a game-changer unlike high-definition TV," said Sandy Climan, the chief executive officer of 3alitydigital, a company that develops the technological systems to power 3D broadcasts.

"The notion at the beginning of 2009 was enormous scepticism and now at CES we will see the next generation of perfection in 3D. Everyone I know who has seen 3D has walked out as if they have seen a new religion." Mr Climan told the BBC.

AMD and Blu-ray have also said they will show off high-definition 3D home entertainment at CES.

E-readers

Amazon's kindle made plenty of headlines over the festive with the claim that on Christmas day, customers purchased more Kindle books than physical books.

Jeff Bezos with Kindle DX
The Kindle is the most gifted item in Amazon's history

Interest in these devices is being reflected at CES, which has expanded exhibition space given over to this segment due to demand.

Forrester predicts that six million e-readers will be sold in the US in the coming year.

Analysts say new models by start up companies such as the COOL-ER e-reader by Interead, and the Que proReader from Plastic Logic should ramp up competition in the category.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil has said he will debut a colour e-reader interface at CES called Blio. The software is expected to work on a number of devices from e-readers to tablets to phones.

"All signs indicate that the e-reader is...a technology whose time in the commercial spotlight is now at hand, and which will make a huge multi-vendor push into the market in the coming year," said Jon Stokes at Arstechnica.com.

Tablet computers

Tablet computers are expected to be a big deal in 2010 and more so with the rumour that Apple will be unveiling its own product at a press and analyst event in San Francisco at the end of January.

While Apple may be grabbing the lion's share of headlines on this topic, a contender is all set to make waves at CES.

Freescale tablet computer
Using Freescale's design, products could be on the shelf by summer

Freescale Semiconductor, which supplies semiconductors and other small components for netbooks and small notebooks, will be showing off a prototype of its own affordable tablet computer at $200 (£125).

The Freescale tablet includes a 7-inch touchscreen, wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity, a 3D desktop framework, a 3G modem and an Android or Linux operating system.

"Freescale's new tablet opens the door to an exciting new world of compelling form factors," said Freescale's Henri Richard.

The company has refused to name any potential vendors for its tablet design but has said it could hit retail shelves by the summer.

According to blogs like TechSpot and Ditigaltrends.com, Dell is also set to announce its first tablet device at CES. The rumoured product is said to be a cross between a smartphone and a netbook with a 5-inch touchscreen and built in 3G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Chipmaker Nvidia is expected to show off tablet from partners using its Tegra processors.

Also making a play at CES will be a raft of netbooks and other small computers that bridge the gap between a laptop and a smartphone.

Connected

Another big theme for CES will be the expanding notion of electronics being connected to the internet.

"The broader theme is one of connectivity coming to everything," said Forrester's Mr Golvin.

Ford Taurus
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"This is the year we're really seeing it in a significant way from the dumb stuff getting connected like lights and washer/dryers to our entertainment systems."

The connected car will also be making inroads into this space.

For the first time there will be three car makers - Kia, GM and Ford - demonstrating new ways to connect cars to the internet and improve driver safety.

"I think we are very close to an era that if your consumer electronic product is not connected to the internet, it will be deemed a dinosaur," Gartner Research's Mr Baker told BBC News.

CES spoiler

But despite drawing thousands of people to CES, the show will be overshadowed to some extent by what Google and Apple do away from the event.

Today Google is expected to launch its own branded phone called the Nexus One.

Later in the month, industry watchers are preparing for Apple to reveal its own tablet computer code-named everything from the iSlate to the iPad.

The announcements do not seem to be dampening the spirits of Gary Shapiro who is the head of CES hosts the Consumer Electronics Association.

"I'm more excited about this upcoming show than any one in 30 years. There will be more innovation at this show than any one in history," said Mr Shapiro.



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