Technically, today is the official start date of the Consumer Electronics Show, but Monday saw keynotes from industry giants like Samsung (SSNLF), a flurry of press conferences and some clear trends emerging.
While a lot happened, here are some of the most interesting developments from what was really day one of CES 2014.
The 4K TV Push Continues at CES 2014
4K TV dominated the headlines as manufacturers and content partners press full steam ahead to convince us to upgrade to Ultra HD.
The press for 4K TVs — the Ultra HD sets with over 8 million pixels — picks up where it left off from CES 2013. Samsung, Sony (SNE), LG and the rest were pushing the 4K TV hard. Sony alone has nine new 4K TV sets coming to market. But in response to the growing threat of cheaper Chinese competition, that line-up includes smaller models with fewer frills and lighter price tags.
Samsung and LG, on the other hand, not only trotted out massive 4K TVs (we’re talking 105-inches), but they’re also pushing curved sets that help to eliminate reflections and provide viewers with a more immersive experience. Samsung’s 105-inch curved monster, for example, is an Ultra HD flatscreen with edges that curve inward at the touch of a button.
Of course, 4K TV content was one of the problems at last year’s CES and throughout 2013. The good news: CES 2014 was where the solutions began to materialize. It looks like the Ultra HD content savior is going to be streaming.
Netflix (NFLX) will be launching 4K streaming content in 2014. Comcast (CMCSA) is promoting 4K content through its Xfinity TV 4K streaming app. And Amazon (AMZN) announced a partnership with Samsung and studios to “pioneer 4K Ultra HD experience for customers.” Besides Amazon’s commitment to facilitate 4K video streaming through Amazon Instant Video, it has also committed to shooting all of its original video programming for 2014 in native 4K Ultra HD.
While 4K TV solutions ramped up to help the technology go mainstream, a few TV technologies appear to be falling by the wayside. If you had any doubts that 3D TV is dead, look no further than CES 2014 for confirmation. Vizio — one of the biggest flatscreen TV manufacturers — dropped support for 3D altogether in this year’s models.
When a leading manufacturer stops treating 3D as an afterthought and removes it completely from its line-up, that technology has flatlined.
The other technology facing a questionable future is the media streamer. Roku announced it is releasing its own line of TVs (with its streaming player built-in) and more TVs are appearing with Android support.
To be clear, there were still plenty of new streaming add-ons announced at CES 2014, including a Netgear (NTGR) NeoMediacast dongle aimed at Google’s (GOOG) popular Chromecast. But as more TVs pack streaming technology inside and the 4K TV (with that built-in streaming capability) inches closer to mainstream, some analysts are casting doubt on the future of plug-in and set-top streamers like the Apple (AAPL) TV.
Other Big Developments at CES 2014
While 4K TVs dominated the first day of CES 2014 (the eye candy is hard to resist), there were other developments too.
Tablets continue to be big, and that description is now becoming a literal one. Samsung — the company that super-sized the smartphone and created the phablet — has turned its attention to tablets.
After several years of companies (including Apple) madly scrambling to address a demand for smaller tablets, Samsung is trying to push demand in the opposite direction with a pair of 12.2-inch Galaxy tablets.
Going big lets users have multiple app windows open side-by-side, which is expected to be appealing for business and education. Apple has been rumored to be working on a 12-inch iPad for 2014; if 2013 was the year of the small, mass-market tablet, then 2014 may well be the year of the prosumer tablet.
As expected, wearables have been big already at CES 2014. Intel (INTC) got into the game with the announcement of its own smartwatch and a headset designed to integrate with a smartphone’s personal assistant. Pebble — a star of last year’s CES — introduced a reworked version of its best-selling smartwatch that replaces the plastic case with a metal one (the guts are pretty much the same) but is $100 more at $249.
So while Samsung’s Galaxy Gear has sold dismally, its $329 cost appears to have convinced others that the market will bear a higher price tag. And there were literally dozens of new entrants into the health wearables arena, including fitness bands to compete against the popular Fitbit Force from the likes of Sony and LG.
On the PC front, Intel is introducing PCs that run both Windows and Android and PC manufacturers like Asus unveiled dual platform systems at CES 2014. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) unveiled an interesting attempt to address the threat of tablets stealing its PC business with the HP Slate 21 Pro, an all-in-one PC aimed at the enterprise market that runs Android, not Windows. It ships with an Android productivity suite offering Microsoft (MSFT) Office compatibility, the 21.5-inch display is a full HD touchscreen and the whole thing goes for just $399.
Maybe that’s the answer for a PC maker to stay relevant as tablets gain popularity — but if so, Microsoft can’t be happy about the solution.
There was a lot more revealed on Monday and more scheduled for Tuesday as CES 2014 officially kicks off, so stay tuned for our next wrap-up.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.