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Have the Angry Birds flown the nest?
Following on from Tony’s blog covering IBC 2011, it was time to see what CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2012 had to offer.

18 January 2012
Following on from Tony’s blog covering IBC 2011, it was time to see what CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2012 had to offer. The two shows have a different DNA, so it was interesting to see how they would address the future of TV etc. CES is very much a consumer show (hence the name) with a focus on products which can be in the customers hands within the next few months. IBC on the other hand is a trade show specific to the broadcast industry, so you can buy professional video editing suites, cameras, outside broadcast trucks etc.

CES is set in the capitalist heartland of Las Vegas, so everything had to be shiny. There was no longer the drive to have the largest TV set on display, rather the thinnest or highest contrast ratio, or best looking stand!  Every TV is connected or “smart”, so this is no longer used as a differentiation. The manufacturers all had various demos of their connected world and apps, but there was no killer app shown, and not an angry bird in sight. Why no angry birds? Perhaps that particular app was used before to show the flexibility of platforms (look we can do it) without being particularly suited to a remote control TV.  So what apps were they showing? Well a few had twitter running down the side of the screen, with the main content being shown in a smaller window. Would you buy a big TV, only to watch content in only part of it?? Another reasonably common theme was using the TV for VoIP (mostly Skype).  So the mother-in-law phones and you not only get full screen video of her, you cannot escape to watch TV while the wife talks to her, and no sneaking off in the background either…

Manufacturers of TV’s seem to be hedging their bets. Today there are a few standards for apps around promoted by either specific manufacturer, or group of manufacturers. However, as well as showing these, most were also showing Google TV or Android implementations. One demo I saw had a 60” TV running Google TV with a pen-touch interface. The demonstrator was using the pen to draw on the TV and open files etc. Not the most practical for a TV set at home, especially if it’s mounted on the wall. Why show both their own solution and some form of open standard? Well the manufacturers seem to realise that the best way to grow the app base is to have as wide an implementation as possible, that way developers have a reason to target it. If developers were left to choose between multiple standards, then the cost of developing across them would be excessive, and the risk is run that someone else gets the killer app, and your TV doesn’t support it.  Of course you could always go back to the old fashioned way, and just watch the TV.

Nearly all the TV manufacturers, while having large displays of conventional 3D (in particular a massive arrangement by LG) were also showing “glass-less” 3D. These had varying levels of success, with the Sony display appearing to be the best of show in my opinion. No word was given on when any of these displays might make it to market. 

So from a TV point of view, the message was essentially the same as last year, we are slimmer, better displays, connected, and oh yes you can run apps on them. It would seem that as Tony pointed out in another blog, content aggregation is moving towards the TV set, so it will become the hub in the future. As for the social networking aspect, or apps platform, it would seem to make most sense to have this within connected devices (such as tablets, of which there were many) and use technology from the likes of Motive to link everything together easily and securely.

So what else was shown? Well as I mentioned above, tablets, everywhere.  All looking to compete against the iPad (Apple doesn’t have an official presence at CES, although there are plenty of accessories there).  The tablets I saw were all very similar, with no indication of retail price to see if they had a significant advantage there. Also present in large numbers were Ultrabooks, or thin laptops. These seem to be fighting a battle mostly with the tablets. 

There was also a small but interesting section on mobile TV broadcasting, but more on that in another blog……

Dr Glenn Craib
Vice President Products & Services