SAN JOSE, Calif. – I'll be cooling my heels in Silicon Valley while my colleagues burn through shoe leather covering the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week. But I can't resist speculating what trends will be big at the supersized show I have attended for several years.
So here are nine predictions for CES 2011. I welcome you to share yours in a comment below.
1. Tablets everywhere
Everybody will have their version of an iPad on display at CES, including Acer, Dell (with a system already found in the FCC approval queue), Lenovo and HP. They will use combinations of every mobile CPU and OS out there, giving everyone a chance to crow about having a design win in a zero million-unit system.
The trend is another sign we are in the midst of a mobile computing renaissance. Tablets are sucking up an increasing amount of the creative juice in the sector as they turn everything from GPS systems to e-readers into apps.
I don't expect any new systems that will break into the top tier where Samsung distantly follows Apple. The leaders in this race are already far down the track and doing a great job.
Lenovo, for example, said it will show a tablet at CES, however its cred as a mobile innovator was somewhat compromised when it pulled back its Skylight Linux smartbook using the Qualcomm Snapdragon it unveiled with great fanfare last year, claiming it was being redesigned for Google Android. We're still waiting on its return.
2. TVs tune into the home net
After showing last year whole product families with built-in stereo 3-D and Web connectivity, TV makers don't have many new bells and whistles to add in 2011. The one new wrinkle that may appear down low in the spec sheet is broader support for built-in home networking.
Expect 802.11n Wi-Fi clients to be the primary winner. But it will be interesting to see whether any TV makers roil in support for powerline communications now that the IEEE 1901 group has forged a standard of sorts for the sector.
Probably the brunt of TVs will continue to take the easy route out and just provide and Ethernet jack, bump up display refresh rates to 240 Hz and show technology demos in their suites of glasses-free 3-D systems that won't debut in a big way for several years.
With GoogleTV pulling the plug on a big CES roll out, the Web TV area will continue to be a free-for-all through 2011. Yahoo will step into the void as the leader, but the truth is the Web will continue to be served up to TVs through a variety of software interfaces for years.
3. Hybrid home networks debut
Peace will break out this year in the home network wars that have raged at CES for a decade. Vendors will trip over each other to proclaim old foes are their closest partners as they show merged wireless/wired designs aimed to connect any service to any device anywhere in the home.
Atheros and Broadcom will compete to tell the story about hybrid Wi-Fi and HomePlug powerline systems powered by their chips. Marvell may chime in here too with the technology it acquired from DS2.
Entropic Communications likely will show new designs based on its MoCA technology coupled with Wi-Fi. Sigma Designs will tell its own story about Home Phoneline and powerline nets compliant with the new ITU G.hn standard.
If you don't have a partner find one soon. The dance has started.
4. Home automation fights for control
Zigbee, Z-Wave and a handful of other network options will continue to tout the arrival of home control networks. Indeed carriers such as Verizon are getting interested in delivering such services, but it's a priority still buried on their to-do lists far below supporting Wi-Fi, tablets and netbooks.
More than three decades after the debut of X10, home automation is still one of the many someday-emerging markets showcased at CES.