2013's Consumer Electronics Show News Blog

2013's Consumer Electronics Show News Blog

Jan 11, 2013 | NEWS

Six Technology Trends from CES That Will Shape 2013

Alex Pham and Chris Morris, Las Vegas

Every January, the Consumer Electronics Show gives the world a preview of the flood of gadgets heading our way in the coming year and beyond. Some are incredibly silly, while others are complete game changers. All promise to make people's lives better somehow. We've crisscrossed the show floors to come up with six products -- each representing larger trends in consumer electronics as they relate to the world of media. They are:

Brookstone SoftSound pillow
($129, out in May) - Audio is being embedded into everything - even pillows. Brookstone's SoftSound pillow has two high fidelity, ultra-thin speakers inside that can wirelessly receive and transmit sound coming from a nearby television set. Why should anyone want such a thing? Many people like to drift to sleep with the TV on, but their bedmate may not be so thrilled about having the TV blaring. SoftSound is designed so that audio can be heard if the person's head is on the pillow, but muffled everywhere else. The pillow is heavy, but comfortable - using the company's existing memory foam-like material. And even better, you can set a timer to automatically turn off the set, so your slumber isn't disturbed by late night infomercials.


Panasonic Bone Conducting Headphones
(Price unknown, releasing this fall) - One of the big themes at CES this year is how existing technologies get mashed up to become more useful. The Panasonic Bone Conducting Headphones is one great example. It pairs up Bluetooth wireless technology with bone conduction to deliver personalized audio for its TV sets. That means, for instance, two people watching the same show in the same room can get different levels of audio. According to a Johns Hopkins University study, http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/one_in_five_americans_has_hearing_loss more than 20% of Americans have hearing impairments. This allows them to watch TV with their families without having to crank the volume to 11 and deafening everyone else in the room.

iriver ON earbud and heart-monitor ($199, release in March) - Gadgets that help users monitor their health has been a major theme for the past year. In 2013, expect entertainment to play a larger role in this trend, helping to boost the fun-factor and make health and fitness less of a drudge. iriver, a South Korean electronics company that made one of the first digital music players in 2000 and had the largest market share for that category until Apple came around with its iPod, teamed up with Valencell Inc. http://www.valencell.com/about-us to make ON, a combination earphone and heart monitor that also gauges distance, speed, cadence, aerobic fitness levels and calories burned, using sensors that uses light to monitor blood flow characteristics in the ear. The data is wirelessly transmitted to a smartphone while the earbuds pipe music during the workout.

Motorheadphones ($49-$129, out in April) - Celebrity-endorsed headphones are proliferating this year. The challenge for folks will be how to cut through the glamour to find a pair with as much high quality sound to match the level of hype. Our recommendation would be to listen to them for yourselves. Many premium headphones pump up the bass. But if you're a rock lover, an emphasis on the thumping, driving bass can come at the expense of mid-range sound - and can alter other qualities of the music. Motorheadphones, endorsed by the eponymous band, dial that bass down to focus on the mid-range, promising that rock fans can hear the music "the way it's meant to be heard," a marketing mantra that will no doubt hit many ears this year.

Sony Xperia Z with One Touch (price varies by carrier, out by March 31) - Sony, which has struggled to compete in the smartphone category against Apple, Samsung and others, is trying again with the Xperia Z. This time, Sony added One Touch, which lets users who are listening to music or watching video on the device transfer that over to other Sony devices by touching them together. Using near-field communication (NFC), the Xperia Z can "hand off" the video or the music to Sony TV's or stereos that also have One Touch so users can continue to listen or watch on a bigger screen or a better audio system. One Touch is an example of how devices are increasingly able to "talk" to each other, a trend that we saw in spades at CES this year. An oven that has reached a certain temperature can, for example, can flash that message to the TV. LG showed a washer-dryer set that sends messages to a smartphone telling owners when the laundry is done. Esoteric? Perhaps. But the market will soon teem with services that use inter-gadget connectivity and personal context to create more meaningful applications.

Ford Sync AppLink
-- Connected in-car entertainment is blossoming this year. For the driver, there is a panoply of music and audio entertainment optionsbeing directly integrated into the dashboard of new cars rolling off the assembly line. For rear-seat passengers, video and games are added to the mix. This is not new. What will be different in 2013, however, is the amount of streaming content that can easily find their way into the car, thanks to efforts by car companies such as Ford and General Motors to turn vehicles into platforms that developers can distribute their applications. Both car companies announced at CES that they are opening up their in-car software platforms to outside developers. Ford, with its Sync platform, is ahead of the game, having worked with a select group of developers such as Pandora, Aha and Rhapsody to bring streaming content into its vehicles. Now Ford, along with GM, are opening up their software platforms to all developers. This is just like Android oriOS, but the car companies will be much more selective as to which applications will be allowed in the vehicle. For safety reasons, apps must adhere to a strict set of criteria, https://developer.ford.com/develop/approval-criteria/ such as no distracting videos or lengthy texts, before they can be approved.

Jan 11, 2013 | NEWS

Video: CES 2013 -- In-Car Innovation, Audio Advertising Are Trends Again, But No Big Changes This Year

Scott Steinberg, Las Vegas

Musically, annual high-tech industry event the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) struck both predictable and unexpected chords. A year of incremental innovation for hardware, 2013 nonetheless promises to deliver marked gains in production, distribution and content delivery methods that may extend industry horizons by leaps and bounds.

Expanding the market pioneered by Beats by Dre, numerous musicians, from Motorhead's Lemmy to 50 Cent, lined up at the conference to piggyback on the increasingly popular celebrity-branded headphone business. A rising push towards retro-futuristic innovation was also evident throughout the broader accessory market, as exemplified by offerings like Griffin's wood-encased WoodTones headphones, Pyle's USB phonograph and ION Audio's jukebox iPhone and iPad dock. But what's potentially more telling for entertainment industry players hoping to extend their reach, whether to encompass or better leverage digital networks, is the growth and maturation of both emerging markets and content creation or sharing solutions.

As noted in our recent conversation with Gibson Guitar chairman and CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, technology looks to play a more "invisible and not intrusive" role in production going forward. Major themes for 2013 will include an array of auto-tuning instruments with direct digital output, and portable app-backed recording equipment such as IK Multimedia's suite of mobile accessories. Hoping to do for live performers what ProTools did for producers, novel new debuts such as the iRig HD digital guitar interface and LL Cool J's MyConnect Studio App aim to provide on-the-fly recording and collaboration, respectively, wherever musicians travel. Thanks to an array of new high-tech solutions from USB microphones to direct-to-digital turntables, and applications for taping or streaming music to and from mobile devices, it's now possible to capture and share studio-grade performances whenever inspiration strikes.

Myriad car manufacturers from Chrysler to GM also lined up at CES 2013 to announce partnerships with Slacker, iHeartRadio, Spotify and other streaming services, broadening the reach of digital networks. But perhaps the most telling announcement surrounding the auto industry's digitally-enhanced future at the show came from Ford, which revealed an open program for mobile app developers. Allowing enterprising creators to rethink the way in which in-car entertainment is consumed, the initiative promises to pair novel and crowdsourced designs with plug-and-play solutions for delivering premium musical content. Across the board, stereo makers such as Kenwood and Pioneer are also increasingly implementing high-tech apps and digital song delivery into new offerings, aiming to expand listeners' choice of channels.

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Jan 11, 2013 | NEWS

OneBeat, Microsoft Team For Xbox Live App, Newfronts Presentation to Advertisers

Andrew Hampp, Los Angeles

EDM entertainment company OneBeat and Microsoft are teaming up for an app that will stream exclusive concerts, behind-the-scenes footage and other electronic dance music coverage across the Xbox Live and Xbox 360 platforms. The app is set for a late spring debut and was introduced to advertisers this week during CES.

As an online content and advertising network built around EDM, OneBeat has already teamed with Steve Aoki, Fedde Le Grand, Digitalism and the Winter Music Conference for original content and events on its

Jan 8, 2013 | News

CES 2013: Sony CEO Stays Committed to Content

Alex Pham (@AlexPham), Las Vegas

Sony Corp. Chief Executive Kazuo Hirai emphatically told reporters at the Consumer Electronics Show that his company does not intend to divest its movie, music and games units, despite the company's unprecedented financial woes.

"We are not selling" those properties, said Hirai, who formally took the reins of the Japanese media and technology company nine months ago from Howard Stringer.

Hirai, who cut his teeth in the company's U.S. music and games divisions before rising to the top rung in Tokyo, said Sony continues to believe in the synergies between content, services and devices.

Sony for instance unveiled at its CES press conference a new service that will deliver ultra-high resolution 4K video to consumers whichwill include many of its own titles from Sony Pictures, Hirai said. Right now, most in-home high-definition content, including Blu-ray, is 1,920 pixels wide by 1,080 pixels high. In theaters, however, high-quality screens boast four time that resolution with 3,840 by 2,160 pixels, or commonly referred to as 4K.

Hirai said Sony wants to own the 4K ecosystem - from content creation, to theater distribution to at-home streaming and sales. It's also feeding professional filmmakers at its studios and elsewhere, as well as consumer enthusiasts, with 4K video cameras. Being able to push 4K at everypoint along the chain gives Sony an advantage, Hirai told a handful of reporters following the company's Las Vegas press conference.

The 4K mantra remains one of Sony's three core themes as it embarks on a painful path to restructure its massive bulk, downsizing some businesses and shuttering others. The company, for example, in October announced it was shuttering a plant that makes optical lenses and mobile phones. Sony also is buying more components from outside suppliers. The company, which lost $5.7 billion its last fiscal year ended March 31, said it is on target to return its battered television business within the year.

Hirai said Sony will narrow its focus on digital imaging, mobile and games. But that doesn't mean the company is giving up on all other business units, he said.

Jan 8, 2013 | NEWS

CES 2013: Monster Echoes Beats, Goes After Market Segments Via Celebrities

Alex Pham (@AlexPham), Las Vegas

For Monster Cable, Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine are tough acts to follow.

Now that its contract with Beats Electronics to manufacture Dre-branded headphones has officially dissolved, Monster must look elsewhere to drive sales.

To help carry the flag, Monster has recruited several big names to be its brand ambassadors, including Sheila E, Sugar Ray Leonard, Xzibit,Nick Cannon and Tyson Beckford - all of whom appeared on stage with Monster Chief Executive Noel Lee at the company's press conference at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The press event looked little like a tech demo and more like a Milan fashion show, complete with leggy models strutting down the middle aisle of the conference room wearing Monster products. Though Lee talked about "pure monster sound" quality, much of the 50-minute-event was spent on how the headphones looked.

For Monster, pouring on the glam wasn't just about filling the marketing void left by Beats. Each celebrity was selected to target a different demographic, Lee explained in an interview after the event. Just as Beats zoomed in on the urban, hip-hop crowd, Monster wants to carve other market segments - gamers, kids, sports enthusiasts, business travelers, budget-conscious families and women.

Monster turned to rapper Xzibit and boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard to appeal to sports and gaming enthusiasts with its T1 headphones, designed for surround-sound video game sound effects and cinematic soundtracks. Recording artist Sheila E is associated with company's Diamond Tears line of premium fashion headphones. Actor Nick Cannon speaks to urban kids who may want to buy Monster's value-priced headphones sold at Wal-Mart stores. The list goes on.

"We're each going our own way, following our own vision," Lee said in an interview about life after Beats. "Beats owns the urban hip-hop demo. We want to take that model to sports, gaming, youth and other segments. This is different than what Beats is doing."

Lee, whose family owns 100% of Monster, is an engineer by training, having earned a masters degree in mechanical engineering at California Polytechnic State University. After he worked six years as a laser fusion scientist at Lawrence-Livermore Laboratory, Lee founded Monster in 1979 and became a marketer in his own right, selling premium-priced cables in anotherwise commoditized market.

He repeated the feat with Beats. Thanks in large part to Dre and Iovine's celebrity marketing prowess, the three created a vibrant, premium-priced headphone category within a largely commoditized market. Last year, Monster was the largest manufacturer in the $754 million U.S. market for headphones priced $100 and above.

The 63-year-old executive acknowledged that half of his company's revenue last year came from the Beats brand. Because Monster is privately held, it does not disclose its financials.

"That's why we have to step it up this year with our new brand efforts," Lee said.

Jan 8, 2013 | Keynote

Qualcomm CEO Dr. Paul Jacobs' Pre-CES Keynote Speech Brings Out Fast Processors, Big Bird

Chris Morris, Las Vegas

Qualcomm brought the stars out at its first pre-CES keynote speech.

CEO Dr. Paul Jacobs is only the third person to kick off the show (Microsoft's Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer have done it every other year). And, perhaps realizing the pressure, he opted to punch up his discussion of the mobile generation with appearances by over a half dozen celebrities from the movie, music, sports and political worlds.

But he started with a nod to the past.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was the first to barrel onto the stage, quickly stealing the spotlight and almost turning Qualcomm's presentation into a marketing platform for Microsoft-powered mobile devices.

From there, though, the guest list got a lot glitzier, with director Guillermo del Toro, NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski, Sesame Street icon Big Bird, Archbishop Desmond Tutu (in a recorded message), Star Trek: Edge of Darkness' Alice Eve and pop sensations Maroon 5 all making appearances.

The company also unveiled the next generation of its Snapdragon mobile chip - which it says boasts a 75 percent performance increase over its predecessor. (The current generation Snapdragon powers more than 500 mobile devices on the market today.) The new chip, which will be in phones and tablets by the back half of 2013, will both play video in 4K/Ultra High Definition as well as record it in that format.

To emphasize that, del Toro showed off a clip from his upcoming Pacific Rim which was running off of a tablet equipped with the new Snapdragon 800 flagship processor. He also introduced a scene from an Ultra HD version of Blade 2 running on the platform.

"Snapdragon will let it be seen exactly as I wanted it to be seen," he said.

If del Toro's presence added geek cred to the keynote, Maroon 5's three-song acoustic set upped its coolness quotient. Three members of the band, including frontman Adam Levine, played "One More Night", "This Love" and "Payphone". (The full band will also play the company's CES party later this week.)

Maroon 5 is just one of several notable musicians attending CES. Monster brought out Sheila E. during its press conference Monday. And acts such as Ke$ha and Alicia Keys will play at parties later this week.

Big Bird crashed Jacob's keynote to pitch an upcoming app powered by Qualcomm technology. And Eve, who plays Dr. Carole Marcus in this summer's Star Trek: Into Darkness, also showcased an app for the film, which will let fans learn more by completing a series of tasks, before letting it slip that a new commercial would air during the Super Bowl.

Only Archbishop Tutu really focused on Qualcomm's "Born Mobile" theme, discussing the importance of mobile devices in emerging and impoverished nations saying "mobile is going to have transformative impact on the public health here and in Africa and all around the word."

Jacobs underscored the growing importance of mobile devices in today's world. The company's processors power more than 500 devices on the market today, with another 400 in development now, said Jacobs.

"Mobile is breaking down barriers and bridging the digital divide," he said.

He also he announced the launch of the Tricorder XPrize, a contest to encourage developers to create a small handheld medical scanner - with the winner taking home $10 million.

Jan 8, 2013 | News

CES 2013: Tablets and Smartphones To Rule Global Consumer Electronics Market

Alex Pham (@AlexPham), Las Vegas

After declining 1% in 2012, the consumer electronics industry is poised to make a modest 4% rebound this year, fueled largely by mobile devices, according to forecasts released this week at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.

Consumers are expected to spend $1.105 trillion this year on electronics, according to the Consumer Electronics Association and GFK Digital World, a global research firm that tracks sales at 340,000 retail stores in more than 90 countries. That's up from $1.058 trillion in 2012 and $1.069 trillion in 2011.

As people become digital content omnivores, they are looking to mobile devices to consume media wherever they happen to be. As a result, sales of tablets and smartphones will account for 40% of all consumer electronics spending worldwide this year, predicted GFK and CEA, the trade organization that hosts CES. Once laptops and notebook computers are added, that figure rises to about half of consumer spending devoted to mobile devices.

Tablets are already in 44% of U.S. households, up from just 8% at the beginning of 2011. Smartphones are now in 55% of U.S. hones, up from 39% two years ago. Those numbers are expected to continue to grow this year as revenue from the sale of tablets are forecast to grow 25% this year, with smartphones expected to grow 22%. The growth in units are expected to be even higher as prices come down.

That was the good news. The bad news is that just about every other category of consumer electronics -- with the possible exception of game consoles -- are expected to continue their downward slide this year. That includes entertainment product categories such as Blu-ray players, home audio gear, LCD TVs and portable media players.

Some categories are collapsing because their functionalities have been integrated into tablets and smartphones. Pocket point-and-shoot cameras, MP3 players, GPS navigation systems and handheld game consoles have suffered steep declines as consumers turn to the smartphone as a sort of Swiss Army Knife for their digital lives.

But that doesn't mean dedicated devices such as cameras are dead. They can still thrive in niche markets and applications. Woodman Labs, for example, has carved a $600 million niche in its GoPro line of tiny, rugged cameras used by action sports enthusiast (think head-mounted camera on a skateboarder or snowboarder).

Kazuo Hirai, the new chief executive of Sony Corp., acknowledged in an interview that smartphones and tablets are cannibalizing some product categories within his own company. But Sony prefers to take a proactive approach by, for example, embedding a 30-megapixel camera into its own newest Xperia Z smartphones.

The consumer electronics industry faces another potential peril - the "applification" of technology. GPS devices, for example, are rapidly being replaced by smartphone apps such as Waze and Google Maps for mobile. As the software, service and content get offloaded to remote servers to do the technical heavy lifting, devices may evolve into little more than connected displays and speakers that do little but stream content on demand.

For content providers, such a prospect means they need to build partnerships with the companies that are building the connective tissue between content and hardware. Want proof? Just about every major consumer electronics company that put on press conferences on Monday at CES mentioned they were working with Google, whose Android operating system powers hundreds of millions of mobile devices. For a company that doesn't even have an exhibit booth at the show, that's telling.

Jan 7, 2013 | News

Audible Magic Teams Up With Ad Agencies to Soup Up TV Commercials

Alex Pham (@AlexPham), Las Vegas

Audible Magic, whose audio fingerprinting and recognition technology can detect content, on Monday announced partnerships with three advertising companies in a strategic bid to expand its business beyond copyright enforcement.

The Silicon Valley technology company said it has deals with DG Mediamind, Accelerated Media and Cheshire Duo to develop applications that will try to boost the chances that people will engage with television commercials.

"For advertisers, this will help turn a passive one-way experience into an interactive two-way experience," said Jay Friedman, Audible Magic's Vice President of Marketing, said as the CES conference got under way in Las Vegas today.

There have been numerous attempts to create interactive ads on the TV screen, but bandwidth, cost and other technology constraints doomed these early efforts.

"Today, bandwidth is no longer an issue," Friedman said in an interview with Billboard.biz. "The technology has made interacting with the TV much easier and less expensive. And the financial models exist as advertisers sense greater opportunity."

DG processes and distributes TV commercials for more than 2,500 producers. Accelerated Media develops commercials with major companies such as Mattel and Lincoln Mercury and others. And Cheshire Duo creates custom ads that are triggered when viewers are using their TVs for video conferencing.

Audible Magic will work with all three agencies to enable interactive commercials that are triggered when the company detects relevant content is being played. When a commercial for Barbie dolls plays on the TV, for instance, Audible's technology recognizes the ad and sends a message for the advertiser to trigger an offer on a second screen, either a tablet or smartphone, to view a Barbie video or clip a coupon.

Though the announcement pertains to ads, the technology could easily serve up other content as well on another screen. The company is among a class of startups that detect when a particular piece of content is being played, called automatic content recognition. Shazam is another company in this field.

Jan 7, 2013 Photo|

Xzibit, Sheila E., Nick Cannon, Tyson Beckford, Sugar Ray Leonard, Others Rep Monster

Alex Pham (@AlexPham), Las Vegas


Monster Rolls out red carpet for celebrity brand endorsers at its CES event. From left: Xzibit, Chris Erb, EA Sports Vice President of Marketing, actor Nick Cannon, moswl, XROE Tyson Beckford, BOXER Sugar Ray Leonard, Sheila E. and Andrea Giacomelli, world licensing director, Diesel. (Photo Alex Pham)

Jan 7, 2013 | News

Pandora, iHeartRadio Expand Their Auto Footprints at CES

Glenn Peoples, Nashville

Pandora and iHeartRadio, the top two Internet radio services in the U.S., have a similar message from the CES conference in Las Vegas: we're still going after the automobile.

Pandora announced Monday the Chrysler Group is the latest brand to integrate the popular Internet radio service in its automobiles via Uconnect Access. Chrysler is one of 19 automotive brands in the U.S. and 7 aftermarket manufacturers that offer Pandora in an in-dash entertainment system. The company says there are now more than 85 different car models that include Pandora and more are on the way in 2013.

Clear Channel announced that its iHeartRadio will be added to Chrysler's Uconnect and select 2014 GM infotainment systems. In addition, a new made-for-driving app called IHeartRadio for Auto launched today to enable aftermarket products to incorporate the app. Later this year, iHeartRadio will be featured in GM's new app catalog. This will give drivers a native iHeartRadio app directly in their dashboards.

There's a good reason why Internet radio companies have such a big presence at CES every year: integration with automobile stereo systems, and other consumer electronics, is vital to the success of Internet radio's business model. Pandora is now available in more than 760 consumer electronics devices, up 450% from this time last year, and the company says more than 75% of its listening occurs on mobile phones or other connected devices.

There are an extraordinary number of listening hours up for grabs in the automobile. According to Arbitron, just 17% of mobile phone owners surveyed used a mobile phone to listen to Internet radio in their cars in 2012, up from 11% in 2011.


Jan 7, 2013
| Blog Post

CES 2013: The Sensors Will Be Watching You

Alex Pham, Las Vegas

Imagine a world in which advertisers can see who you are as you sit on your couch watching TV and serve up commercials tailored to you. Or a world where cars can sense your blood pressure and suggest that you play soothing music to counter your swelling road rage. Or a device that monitors how you eat and encourages you to chew more slowly.

That world is closer than we may realize because the devices that fill our living rooms, cars and backpacks are rapidly incorporating multiple sensors that can track and record our every move, according to Shawn Dubravac, chief economist at the Consumer Electronics Association, which puts on the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which officially begins tomorrow.

Even mundane objects are being equipped with sensors. Liquid Image makes goggles with cameras. Hapilabs has developed a connected fork with an accelerometer that monitors how quickly you eat. Bodymedia makes an armband that can track how well you sleep. All three companies, which are showcasing their wares at this year's CES, will be part of this year's avalanche of connected, sensor-equipped gadgets. Dubravac estimated that 350 million IP addressable devices will ship worldwide this year, many of which will be capable of quietly upload troves of personal data.


"In the age of algorithms, data is the new currency," Dubravac said in his Sunday presentation on CES trends to watch. (A full set of Dubravac's presentation slides can be viewed here.)

This will create opportunities for companies that can provide meaningful services with the oncoming tidal wave of data. In 2012, devices were considered "smart" when they could connect to the Internet. In 2013, being smart will mean being able to sense real-life contexts and provide the intelligence to help people act or make decisions.

Many of the scenarios involve health or safety applications, such as cars that can detect erratic driving or pill bottles that can sense when they have been opened. But they will also play a role in the delivery of entertainment as well. Devices that can "hear" what people are listening to or "see" what is being watched can automatically serve up related content, for example. Gadgets that can sense where a person is and what that person is doing can recommend relevant entertainment options. Out for a leisurely jog? Here's a playlist with a moderate tempo. Sped up to a full-on sprint? How about a more aggressive set of tracks?

One speed bump in this all-sensing electronics world is concern over personal privacy. Some people will think it's creepy to have a connected camera in their living room that "knows" who is there and can track what they are doing and even whether they are feeling relaxed or tense - based on the slight changes in body movement as they breathe.

Dubravac believes that this fear may not be insurmountable, particularly if companies are transparent about how they use the data and if they give people something in exchange. Progressive Insurance, for example, gives customers rate discounts if they agree to let the company track their driving via GPS. Other location-based services give users digital coupons whenever they "check-in."

He calls these bits of data "digital breadcrumbs." Added with the right service, however, these crumbs could help businesses make some real dough in 2013.

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Jan 7, 2013
| PREVIEW

Preview: Content Shapes Hardware's Future

Alex Pham, Las Vegas

Consumer electronics in recent years have become more than just high-powered circuitry. They're also about the content.

That means media, which used to play a supporting role as a sort of Vanna White showing off the features of the latest gadgetry, has become a rock star in its own right.

At this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, you will be just as likely to find examples of devices designed specifically around the characteristics of the media they transmit, as the other way around. In other words, the best technology will often be the items that can make themselves disappear and put the content front and center.

Hardware specs, however, remain quite relevant. The art of making consumer electronics transparent, elegant and dead simple is much harder than it looks. That's why a show like CES exists. Thousands of companies around the world vie each year at the show to prove that they've got the formula right-though only a handful do.

With 3,000 exhibitors and more than 150,000 expected attendees during four days starting Jan. 8, the show will be a primordial soup of controlled chaos. And at 1.9 million square feet of convention floor space that equals the area of 32 football fields, this year's CES will be the largest in its 47-year history.

As with most years, the show can be analyzed through overarching themes. Here are a few to help decode this year's event.

EVERYTHING BECOMES EASIER FOR CONSUMERS

"If it isn't wireless or ready to go out of the box, it's probably last year's model," says Richard Doherty, an analyst with the Envisioneering Group. "Everything will be wireless this year. There won't be screens, devices or music systems that don't have Bluetooth, WiFi or both."

Pairing devices or hooking them up to an Internet connection will be a lot less cryptic. Manufacturers want to take advantage of the fact that one-quarter of households worldwide have access to wireless Internet, according to a report by Strategy Analytics. In the United States, where media consumption is among the highest in the world, more than 61% of households have WiFi.

Why it matters: Devices will rely less on physical media and more on digitally distributed content for their utility and appeal. The ability to market through digital channels will be increasingly important as fewer consumers walk down the aisles of brick-and-mortar stores to explore their entertainment options.

"It's a double-edged sword," Digital World Research chief executive P.J. McNealy says. "Traditional brick-and-mortar will be increasingly dis-intermediated, which means content owners have to find new marketing and distribution channels. On the other hand, that represents new opportunities."

Indeed, one of the show's primary keynotes is "Brand Matters," which will assemble leading marketing minds from AT&T, American Express, Samsung, Unilever, the Coca-Cola Co. and Salesforce.com to dissect how digital platforms are transforming the world of brand messaging.

SECOND SCREEN GETS FIRST BILLING

It's not just about using a tablet as an alternative remote control anymore. People are increasingly bringing along another screen with them when they turn on their TVs. Examples include sports fans who sit on their couches with their laptops, fingers ready to look up team statistics, player bios or a piece of esoteric trivia that suddenly becomes vitally important to settle a bet. For others, watching a movie or TV show now involves searching IMDB.com for credits or actor bios, or Wikipedia for plot summaries and behind-the-scenes gossip.

Why it matters: This extra piece of real estate will reshape entertainment in numerous ways that we're only now beginning to understand. It's not just ad space: It's also the ability to serve up companion content that further engages viewers and listeners in a powerful, interactive "lean-forward" manner. And it's an opportunity to wrap additional commerce in a way that's not intrusive to the content playing on the big screen.


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Jan 7, 2013
| Video

Video Preview: What's Hot, What's Not in 2013 Tech and Innovation

Scott Steinberg, Las Vegas

This CES preview video is from Billboard.biz contributor Scott Steinberg, who is reporting for .Biz from the conference. Scott runs the management consulting/market research firm TechSavvy.


Jan 7, 2013
| Video

Video Preview: Technology and Entertainment Trends 2013

Scott Steinberg, Las Vegas

Video from Billboard.biz contributor Scott Steinberg, who is reporting from this year's conference. Scott runs the management consulting/market research firm TechSavvy.


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