Long seen as the bellwether for innovation and technology, this year’s Consumer Electronics Show centered on content providers and distribution. Amongst all the announcements, unveilings and secret briefings, five key topics emerged:
1.) Media, technology and the innovators dilemma
Consumer demand for access to content may just win out against corporate territorialism. Sensing the pressing need to align, media and tech executives are devising a number of alliances in order to keep consumers watching, interacting and buying. One of the more promising burgeoning relationships to watch is News Corp & Samsung under which the two hope to provide access to Fox TV programming to tablets and Smart TVs. Other heavyweights in these discussions include Verizon, Motorola, NFL, Vizio, ABC and Google. The sticking point across all of these strategic partnerships lies in content control and compensation. Until a business model is developed that will satisfy both sides the media and technology battle will wage on.
2.) Television revolution 2.0
The sale of 3D and Internet connected TVs has not taken off the way television manufactures had hoped. In an effort to jump start slowing sales and get consumers excited, this year is a full court press on “Smart TVs.” The new models have computer like functionality, tablet design, and are fully equipped to run customized applications at faster speeds. Games will be front and center in the new Smart TVs across all manufactures and may threaten the likes of Sony PS3 and Xbox. Players on all sides are jumping into the fray, with new comers like Cisco aligning with Cable companies in an effort to circumvent the Rokus, and TiVos of the world. Given the skyrocketing appeal of tablets, it is a fair assessment to say that Smart TVs are an inevitable trend. Consumer demand is slow, but rising – 21% of televisions sold last year were Internet enabled and that number is forecast to jump to 50% in the next three years. Despite all of the momentum, there are still hurdles to overcome before you find the latest “Smart TV” at a Best Buy near you. Boot up time, remote control complexity, and uniform operating platforms plague developers and frustrate consumers.
3.) 4G has arrived
Verizon, Sprint, RIM, and AT&T are all in the fight for 4G supremacy. Sprint is taking the lead in the war of affordability as it unveiled its first 4G under $200, far lower than other available models. With the finalization of Motorola’s corporate split, Motorola Mobility is now poised to be more nimble in the aggressive cell phone and tablet game, and T-Mobile announced it too will lower price points on 4G offerings. The competition is heating up, and it will absolutely accelerate the adoption of 4G among consumers. Efforts abound with manufacturers scrambling to provide 4G options and some like Motorola are offering “upgrade” contingencies whereby consumers who buy their Xoom 3G tablet will be able to get a technology upgrade to 4G in the near future.
4.) Tablets are the rage
Apple was a no show at CES (no news here), but make no mistake – this was the year of the Tablet, the star of CES. Though still in its nascence, the adoption rates for tablets are high, and steadily climbing. Forrester is now projecting that 82 million Americans will own a tablet by 2015. It seems that everyone is looking for a seat at the tablet table – Motorola Mobility debuted its version, Windows is developing a new OS for the device, and Comcast announced they will soon enable streaming capabilities. Even the most traditional media platforms are seeking a reinvention as Rupert Murdoch hopes to breathe new life into the newspaper business through his tablet newspaper (dubbed the Daily). Though the growth of the device is not in question, not everyone agrees on the real usability of tablets. Toshiba announced it will take a different approach and offers its tablets without a wireless carrier under the assumption that tablets will be used more like laptops than cellphones.
Not to be left out of the App craze, automakers are quickly launching a plethora of applications across different vehicle models. From the comfort of your car you can book a reservation at your favorite restaurant, update your Facebook status, or even book movie tickets. Toyota, Ford, GM and Hyundai are all racing to develop the most customized and futuristic in car entertainment systems in their new models. Voice activation is the key to these applications allowing both the driver and the passengers to interact safely. The new systems not only have entertainment value, some will also have intrinsic safety value allowing users to keep closer tabs on their car’s health and predicate when services will be needed. As with all the other aspects of our lives, Internet connectedness will become the standard.
So as you can see, there is lots to watch for in 2011 and beyond. CES continues to grow in scale and importance as it influences the work we deliver for our clients, and the way all consumers will be engaging with content in the future. I’ll be sure to post a recap six months from now to check the progress and the prognosis of all the major topics.