Today, more than 3,000 vendors and somewhere in the ballpark of 140,000 attendees descend on Las Vegas to attend CES 2013. Continuing the trend of the past several years, this year traditional consumer electronics (CE) manufacturers are noticeably absent or scaled back in their presence. Microsoft has ditched its keynote and its million-dollar booth, preferring to hold low-key meetings in a hotel far from the convention center. HP, Dell, RIM, and other tech titans of the past are similarly absent from the show floor. But rather than see this withdrawal as a sign that CES is on the decline, I see it as a sign that CES matters more than ever — to everyone except the CE giants of the past.
It's that time of year again! Next week I'm headed to Las Vegas for CES 2012, along with 140,000 other people (bring your hand sanitizer!). Here's what I'll be looking for among the masses of gadgets:
Tablets: Ice Cream Sandwich, Windows 8, and all the rest. Last year, there were more than 80 tablets that debuted at CES. This year, I expect the field to be whittled down some, but there will be plenty of CE manufacturers strutting their stuff. Look for new Android 4.0 tablets from Motorola, Toshiba, Acer, and others. Will they sell better than last year? I don't expect to see any barn-burners, but there's reason to be optimistic: The percentage of US tablet shoppers who say they prefer Android as the operating system on that tablet doubled from 9% to 18% between January and September 2011. Meanwhile, the percentage of tablet shoppers who say they prefer Windows decreased from 46% to 25% — still more than those who prefer Android. We'll be looking for the dazzling Windows 8 demos at the Microsoft booth and elsewhere. In addition, we'll be looking at how smaller companies are using Android as an enabling platform but building their own curated experience on top. For example, I'm meeting with Jean-Yves Hepp to check out the Qooq, an Android-based tablet optimized for cooking and kitchen use that's selling well in France.
With CES 2012 a month away, it’s a good time to look ahead at what’s next for consumer technology product strategy. All eyes have been on tablets: Apple sold 40 million iPads in just 18 months, with 11 million sold in this past quarter alone. With the Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet finding their own successful markets, it’s easy to see why tablets attract so much attention and excitement. But computing evolution doesn’t end here—tablets, while still growing rapidly, are not the final form factor. We’ve identified these five form factors as the best candidates for what comes next, which we describe in more detail in a new report for clients:
Wearables. Wearable devices are devices worn on or near the body that sense and relay information. The Lark sleep tracker and BodyMedia wristband both sync with iOS devices and target health and fitness scenarios. WIMM Labs' wristwatch runs on Android software, and targets multiple scenarios including news, social networking, health, and personal finance.
Two words were on everyone's lips today when it came to tablet talk: Honeycomb and LTE, the next-generation much faster network billed as "4G." Honeycomb is Google's first tablet-optimized version of its Android operating system, which will run on tablets like the Motorola Xoom, LG G-Slate, and Asus Eee Pad Transformer. Honeycomb isn't fully operational yet so it's hard to say how well these tablets will perform; early demos show a user experience that looks similar to the Palm WebOS "deck of cards" metaphor for switching between applications.
The Honeycomb tablets have features the iPad doesn't (yet) have, like front and back cameras for video chatting and HDMI outputs for connecting your tablet to your TV. Add in the superspeedy LTE capabilities, which we'll see in tablets in the second half of 2011, and here's what you get: better video and better gaming experiences. Think Skyping and G-chatting with less latency, watching videos with less stuttering, seeing more and more video on sites like Facebook. Not to mention more complex, real-time gaming: Nvidia demoed a concept for cross-platform gaming where you could play a game on your Android tablet with a friend on a PC or Sony PS3 game console.
Today Forrester published its revised US consumer tablet forecast, updating its previous forecast from June 2010. When Apple's iPad first debuted, we saw the device as a game-changer but were too conservative with our forecast. Since then, we've fielded additional consumer surveys and an SMB and enterprise survey, conducted additional supply-side research, and seen more sales numbers from Apple. We've had briefings from many companies that will release new tablets at CES. All of these inputs have led us to revise our US consumer tablet forecast for 2010 upward to 10.3 million units, and we expect sales to more than double in 2011 to 24.1 million units. Of those sales, the lion's share will be iPads, and despite many would-be competitors that will be released at CES, we see Apple commanding the vast majority of the tablet market through 2012.
Forrester's US Consumer Tablet Forecast, updated Jan. 4, 2011: