The Consumer Electronics Show has wrapped for another year, and once again trying to keep an eye on everything being shown off in Las Vegas was a guarantee of sensory overload. As is usually the case over the course of CES 2019, a number of technology trends became clear.
What we saw at CES is a reflection of what Big Tech companies and Silicon Valley startups alike are planning to roll out throughout the last year of the decade.
To prepare you for what’s to come, we’ve put together a list of the five biggest tech trends that were on full display at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.
Virtual Assistants Everywhere
Blame Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) for kicking this one off when it first came up with the idea to put its Alexa virtual assistant in a smart speaker. That started a race to control the smart home with virtual assistants that reached new heights last fall when Alexa showed up in an Amazon Basics microwave oven.
However, CES 2019 proved that even last year’s escalation was just the beginning. Alphabet’s (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google division tripled its display area this year compared to last year’s CES and much of that space was dedicated to showing off devices that support Google Assistant.
Companies are now putting Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri and Bixby in everything from beds to toilets. 2019 is shaping up to be the year that virtual assistants are literally everywhere in the home.
Laptops Are Exciting, Especially Gaming Laptops
Computer makers are always at the Consumer Electronics Show, but they haven’t been generating all that much excitement in recent years. With smartphones and tablets at the forefront, computers have been a bit of a snooze.
But at CES 2019, PCs were generating buzz, especially laptops. A number of factors have converged this year including more efficient mobile processors and GPUs, the popularity of PC gaming and a year in which PC sales paused a long slide, led by laptops.
As a result, laptops — especially gaming laptops — were out in full force. And they were showing off innovative new designs, including thinness that would have been impossible just a year ago, unprecedented processing and graphics capabilities, eye-popping displays with virtually no bezels, new form factors, and plenty of LED lighting.
8K TV Is Coming
Do you own a 4K TV? As of June 2018, only 31% of U.S. homes owned a 4K set. That’s not stopping TV makers from trying to push the next big upgrade: 8K.
There were plenty of high tech TV prototypes on display, from flat screens that roll up for storage to wall-sized sets, but 8K is the trend that manufacturers are betting on as being the next big commercial success. After all, with four times the pixels of a 4K TV (16 times the resolution of 1080p HD), the picture is dazzling and sure to lure in customers.
The big question is, where is the 8K content going to come from? At this point finding 4K content can be tough. The storage space and bandwidth needed for four times the pixels of 4K is going to be a challenge. Regardless, every big TV manufacturer was showing off 8K sets at CES 2019 with plans to roll them out to consumers this year.
Apple on Television
There is another big trend in TV at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, and it has nothing to do with hardware, it’s all about content. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is taking the unprecedented step of opening up its iTunes movie and TV show store to Samsung TVs, no Apple TV streaming box required. That’s a huge source of 4K and HDR content now available to Samsung TV owners.
Apple also announced its AirPlay 2 streaming is being adopted by TV makers including Vizio, Samsung, LG and Sony (NYSE:SNE). This lets iPhone and iPad owners stream video from their device to the TV — a feature that up until now required having an Apple TV connected.
By making these moves, Apple is potentially giving up some sales of Apple TV streamers (which range in price from $149 to $199). However, the payoff is expected to come in the form of more iTunes revenue for the company’s Services division, as well as a larger potential subscriber base when it kicks off its own streaming video service to take on Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) later this year.
5G is the next generation cellular network that promises speeds 20 times that of 4G LTE. Wireless providers are also looking at it as a potential disrupter that could let them replace broadband internet access for homes. Smartphone makers are hoping 5G is the technology that spurs consumers to upgrade en masse.
Needless to say, 5G was all over CES 2019.
There’s one big problem. Cellular networks that can take full advantage of 5G are very expensive, and rollout is progressing slowly. Carriers must install far more towers than LTE requires, and additional wireless spectrum must be purchased. 5G in 2019 is expected to be limited to a handful of large cities, with national rollout not picking up speed until 2020.
AT&T (NYSE:T) was the butt of jokes at CES 2019 for trying to take advantage of the hype by displaying 5GE logos on smartphones –except 5GE isn’t really a thing, it’s just a slightly enhanced version of existing LTE service. But that move shows just how much anticipation is building up around this next-gen wireless technology.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.