The Consumer Electronics Show — better known as CES — is the industry’s annual showcase of the gadgets, gear and technology you can expect to see fighting for space on retailer shelves in the coming year.
Last year’s edition saw gigantic 4K TVs, big screen smartphones, phablets, tablets, 3D printing and the first round of smartwatches take center stage. Samsung (SSNLF) had a big week thanks to it’s massive and oddly styled S9 UltraHD TV.
Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer had perhaps his last hurrah on the CES stage, commandeering Qualcomm’s (QCOMM) keynote to pitch Surface RT tablets and Windows Phone 8. Meanwhile Apple (AAPL) — which chooses not to attend CES — remained in the background, although the company’s presence is always felt as attendees ask: “What would an Apple version of this look like?”
Based on the hype leading up to CES 2014, what are we expecting to be the big developments shaping up in Las Vegas over the course of the week? There are always surprises, but here’s an overview of trends to watch for at the Consumer Electronics Show 2014 edition.
CES 2014: 4K TV Inches Closer to Mainstream
Last year, 4K TVs were the eye candy at CES. Expect to see more of the same this year, but with a wider range of models. Yes, there will still Ultra HDTV sets that cost more than a car, but manufacturers like Sony (SNE), Samsung and LG are facing competition from upstart Chinese companies trying to break into the U.S. market with cheap 4K TV offerings. So expect to see more affordable 4K TVs added to the line-up at CES 2014. In addition to 4K TV, expect to see more curves, with OLED TVs that improve on traditional flat screens picking up steam.
The other challenge 4K TV makers faced was a lack of content, and that should also be addressed at CES 2014, with Netflix (NFLX) expected to announce details of its Ultra HD 4K video streaming service. Google’s (GOOG) YouTube is also primed to make a 4K streaming announcement.
CES 2014: Wearable Technology
There were a number of breakout wearable tech products at last year’s CES, including the Pebble smartwatch. This year, CES 2014 has expanded the floorspace being dedicated to wearable tech from virtual reality glasses to smartwatches and fitness trackers.
Sony and Nike (NKE) are among the prominent companies expected to be showcasing new versions of their wearable tech — the Sony Smart Watch and Nike Fuelband — but the space will be filled with start-ups and smaller companies like Fitbit looking to establish or solidify their position before Apple, Google and other consumer tech giants release commercial wearable gear.
Speaking of Google, there’s also expected to be a large presence from companies promoting cheaper alternatives to Google Glass.
CES 2014: Tablets and Smartphones
The market for mobile devices may be maturing, but that doesn’t mean the competition isn’t fierce and that there’s nothing new to be seen.
Intel (INTC) and Microsoft are expected to be giving Windows 8.1 tablets a push at CES 2014, while more manufacturers jump on the cheap Android tablet bandwagon. Also expect to see more hybrid devices like transforming ultrabook/tablet offerings as PC makers struggle to avoid being eclipsed by tablets.
Look for smartphone displays to get even higher resolution, while Samsung, LG and others are expected to show off their latest smartphone innovation: curved screens. Now that “big” has gone about as far as it can without looking ridiculous, curved screens may be a common sight on the CES 2014 floor and coming soon to your next smartphone.
CES 2014: Home Automation and the Car
While we have often been focused on the living room as the big prize that companies like Sony, Microsoft, Apple and Google are fighting over, the battlefield has actually been growing larger. Thanks to embedded Wi-Fi chips and other “smart” technology, consumers can now interact with everything from appliances to lighting and thermostats using a smartphone, tablet or PC.
Samsung — already a manufacturer of home appliances, TVs, computers, smartphones, tablets and a smartwatch — is looking to put those pieces together with its Smart Home platform. Expect to see home automation to be a big focus at the Consumer Electronics Show 2014.
Another battleground in mobile connectivity is the car. Apple has had the auto integration market largely to itself with the iPhone, but at CES 2014, Audi announced a partnership with Google to bring Android to the car.
CES 2014: Gaming
CES 2014 isn’t really about gaming, but with game consoles duking it out to be a bigger part of the living room, they’ll be there.
This holiday season saw the launch of the Sony PS4 and Xbox One video game consoles, as well as the first of Valve’s Steam Box consoles reaching test users. Look for the PS4 and Xbox One to be on prominent display at the Consumer Electronics Show 2014 — along with new accessories — while Valve looks to convince consumers that Steam gaming is real and a superior experience to the established consoles.
CES 2014: 3D Printing
3D printers were everywhere at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show, and there were some big movements in the industry in 2013 — notably Stratsys (SSYS) buying MakerBot. Consumer 3D printers like the Cube from 3D Systems (DDD) finally made their way onto big box retailer shelves, albeit at a rather hefty price point.
3D printer stocks were on a tear in 2013, but we have yet to see the breakthrough where 3D printing finally goes mainstream.
At CES 2014 those 3D printer manufacturers are going to have another go at convincing people that this is the year to buy a 3D printer.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.