Tablets, Smart Gadgets Ruled at Consumer Electronics Show

Jan. 10, 2011
Tablet computers to rival Apple's iPad were the hot new products on display along with powerful new smartphones, ultra-thin laptops and Web-connected and 3-D TV sets.

Slick touchscreen tablet computers and smarter devices for the home and the car took center stage as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) wrapped up in Las Vegas on Jan. 9.

The always connected lifestyle was on full display at the annual gadget extravaganza as Internet technology ruled at a show traditionally dominated by eye-popping new television sets.

Tablet computers to rival Apple's iPad were the hot new products on display along with powerful new smartphones, ultra-thin laptops and Web-connected and 3-D TV sets during the four-day event.

"The tablet wars are now launched, with everybody under the sun producing tablets," said Endpoint Technologies Associates analyst Roger Kay. "A lot of companies, particularly Asian companies, are offering to create tablets for you on the fly if you want a tablet with your brand on it."

Emphasis on mobile gizmos and making traditionally dumb devices smart with Internet connections made CES celebrities out of chip makers Intel, AMD, and Nvidia as well as carriers Verizon and AT&T.

Rival chip makers showed off fast new processors combining graphics and traditional computing power.

"What that means is a lot more connected stuff," analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley said of the chip announcements at CES. "Everything thinner, lighter, more powerful and more intelligent."

Technology titans Apple and Google were absent but their influences weighed heavy at CES. Scores of tablets based on Google's Android software were launched in bids to challenge Apple's hot-selling iPads.

Motorola Mobility's Xoom tablet computer powered by a coming "Honeycomb" version of Android tailored for such devices was crowned the best gadget at CES in what could be a sign of renewed glory for a faded technology star.

"Of the hundreds of tablets at the show, I didn't see any that were better than the iPad," Enderle said, with a caveat that he didn't see the Xoom. "I think the Honeycomb ones have a chance, but they are going to roll against an iPad 2 by the time they come out."

Apple is expected to introduce a second-generation of its iPad later this year as Honeycomb becomes available to tablet makers.

"The 800-pound gorilla not in the room was Apple, of course," Kay said of the focus here on competing with or making accessories for iPads, iPods, iPhones or MacBook laptop computers.

The show floor featured smart home appliances such as ovens which can download recipes and vehicles which give drivers hands-free voice control access to their smartphone applications.

LG and first-time CES attendee General Electric were among major electronics makers that showed off washing machines, dish washers or other appliances made smart with computer chips and the Internet.

Televisions continued to dazzle, with high-definition or 3D screens boasting Internet connectivity for getting digital content from the Web.

Another important theme at the show was car technology, with Ford unveiling an electric Focus sedan and Internet services tailored for all models.

Audi's self-driving cars were not seen zipping around CES but a concept car developed by General Motors was -- the two-wheel EN-V, or Electric Networked Vehicle, which can park itself or be summoned using a smartphone.

"It's not just computers in control of the car, but computers that people use in the car and location-based services that go with that," said Kay.

With 2,700 exhibitors at CES, offerings ranged from the practical to the frivolous.

More than 140,000 people attended the show, compared with 126,000 at the annual event last year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) trade group behind CES. "CES was a phenomenal worldwide event that spanned global industries including technology, automotive and entertainment markets," said CEA president Gary Shapiro."This global technology gathering featured more innovation, more news, more social media buzz and more international attendance than any other show in CES history."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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