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Mobile technology will dominate everything

PC World staff | Jan. 9, 2012
At this year's CES, tablets will get cheaper, laptops will get thinner, and cameras will become more like phones. Apps will be everywhere, including in cars. And Microsoft's phone-inspired Windows 8 will edge closer to release.

Android 4.0's blanketing approach will ultimately benefit consumers: It encourages competition and invites more options, as well as lower prices overall. It also means that you'll have to be smart about what you're purchasing, in order to avoid buying a clunker that touts its shiny new Android 4.0 OS, but may contain subpar components elsewhere that slow the tablet experience to a crawl.

For tablet makers, Android 4.0 isn't the only big selling point this year. The other is Windows 8. I've received word of several Windows 8 tablets that will be shown (though some may be behind closed doors only), and smaller vendors are already touting "Windows 8-ready" tablets, a designation that presumably means the tablet has the guts and screen resolution needed to run Windows 8. --Melissa J. Perenson

HDTVs

Most of the really interesting HDTV-related stuff that I expect to see at CES this year will involve experimental or otherwise not-ready-for-market TV tech demos. The actual 2012 lineup, meanwhile, will consist largely of unimpressive incremental updates to last year's sets. In other words, the theme for the show in the HDTV category will be "Bet You Can't Wait Until 2013!"

Last year's CES was a stellar one for HDTV enthusiasts: Internet-connected features took off, passive 3D TVs appeared on the scene for folks who weren't willing to endure the headache of active-shutter 3D TVs, and LED edge-lit sets flooded the market from entry level to high end. Aside from the occasional glasses-free 3D TV, however, there wasn't much in the way of promising prototype TV tech--just a solid batch of improvements in existing tech.

Consider LG's upcoming 55-inch OLED TV. Undoubtedly it will look beyond beautiful, and the new manufacturing process that the company used to achieve its extralarge size will (I hope) help reduce OLED manufacturing costs dramatically. But bear in mind that LG's 15-inch OLED TV from 2010 debuted at $2700--the same price as a top-of-the-line 55-inch LED TV.

Likewise, people have been working on glasses-free ("autostereoscopic") 3D TV for a long time, and we've seen prototype sets at CES for several years now. This year I expect some manufacturer to show off an almost-market-ready glasses-free 3D TV that is as watchable as a normal TV--and it will probably reappear at CES 2013, with a projected release date and a price tag.

I predict that the HDTV industry will focus this year on improving the TV-watching experience, not on hugely upgrading the TVs themselves. Though TV manufacturers won't have a lot of new ways to boost their HDTV specs, they may try to make their image-tweaking options more user-friendly (and include even more useful preset modes). They won't be able to add many new content channels to their streaming video catalog, but they will be working on touchscreen remotes and smartphone/tablet apps that make searching and navigating through your many options easier. All in all, you can expect to get more TV from your buck in 2012--but don't plan on seeing much shiny new tech this year. --Patrick Miller

 

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