The annual Consumer Electronics Show draws the eyes of the technology world to Las Vegas as the latest devices are on display and electronics companies try to demonstrate their vision of the future. For 2012, more than 3,100 exhibitors packed the floor to show off more than 20,000 new products. While the focus is clearly on consumers, the “consumerization of IT” over the past few years gives IT departments and solutions providers a reason to keep an eye on the technology that may be making its way into the enterprise. Four macro trends that may have an impact on solution providers emerged from this year’s show.
1. Ultrabooks may be considered by companies trying to solve their device dilemma. The 2011 CES was supposedly going to kick off the year of the tablet, with a host of companies rushing to replicate Apple’s success with the iPad. This year, the most talked-about device was the ultrabook, with a host of companies rushing to replicate Apple’s success with the MacBook Air.
Except for the year-end entry of the Amazon Kindle Fire into the market, non-Apple tablets did not fare as well as their manufacturers were hoping. There are reasons to believe that ultrabooks may fare better, though. While the success of tablets is closely tied to the usability of the OS and the content available, ultrabooks are simply an evolution of the laptop. This evolutionary step may be coming at an opportune time, as companies are currently trying to determine the role of laptops and tablets within their organization. The price will have to come down before there is mass adoption, but the portability and instant-on capability of ultrabooks may position them as a viable best-of-both-worlds option for employees.
2. New TV tech may find its way into a UC strategy. HDTV has been big business at CES for over a decade, and this year was no exception. LG demonstrated their OLED technology, a display that is 4mm thick and uses several techniques to provide crisper pictures than today’s best LED/LCD sets. Several manufacturers are pushing Smart TV technology, where internal processing and an Internet connection turn televisions into light substitutes for computers.
As businesses look to improve the videoconferencing arm of their UC plans, there will continue to be a need for displays that provide the most accurate (and affordable) depiction of face-to-face conversations. By adding smart features, the videoconferencing display—especially in telepresence applications—may pull some of the processing and functionality to the endpoint, changing the makeup of a typical installation.
3. Mobile devices are not finished evolving. Intel made headlines by announcing their entry into the smartphone market with a Medfield line of processors. Designed with low power in mind, Intel hopes that these processors will give them a foothold in a market currently dominated by ARM. The days of focusing on specs are fading, but better processors improve the user experience, so the chip companies will keep churning out better silicon.
Smartphones received more focus than tablets at the show. Aside from processing power, manufacturers are competing on physical attributes, display size and resolution, and 4G capabilities. Operating systems are still a subject of debate as well; while many believe the mobile OS space is a two-horse race between iOS and Android, Windows Phone 7 has some traction due to the partnership with Nokia, and the upcoming Metro interface for Windows 8 may be enticing to those who have heavily invested in Microsoft infrastructure. As smartphones improve rapidly, they will likely be replaced at a higher rate than traditional computers, complicating an organization’s device management system.
4. Devices are not just devices anymore. As devices become more commoditized and the “Internet of Things” grows, the connection between all the devices becomes the differentiating factor. Hardware manufacturers are beginning to position their devices as parts of a cloud ecosystem. When evaluating devices, the connectivity and synching capabilities will become as important as the performance of the primary function.
IT companies will recognize this shift, as many have transformed from device resellers into providers of higher-value services. They should be well positioned to evaluate the level of success that companies have in providing a suite of devices along with software that ties everything together.
What else caught your eye at this year’s CES? We’d love to hear your input on these trends or any others that you noticed.