CES 2011: What did we think of the show?
You've read all the news stories and heard about all the latest gadgets and gizmos that were unveiled at CES, but what was the show like in comparison to previous years? The Pocket-lint team has its say...
For me it was a show of things that weren’t ready yet. Virtually every device that I looked at was billed as "software not ready yet", or "it’s still an early prototype". It’s as if many manufacturers, relying on people like Google for the operating system to power its product, could have done with CES being in February in order to get the new operating system on board.
Interestingly it wasn’t just tablets that suffered from this sense that a couple of more weeks would have helped. Cameras, phones, cars, and even TVs weren’t 100 per cent ready for consumers.
For me, there were a hell of a lot more mobile devices than we're used to seeing at CES - especially with Mobile World Congress around the corner (in February). There also seemed to be a sense of "been there, done that" with the new TV ranges. While connected TV (Smart TV) was all the rage, with feature sets and options clearly an improvement on last year's models, the general feeling was that we've already had our leaps forward in television evolution: 3D, LED backlighting and picture performance. These new versions, therefore we're more a variation on a theme.
Good news for those who bought a TV last year then. Keep those upgrade bucks in your pockets for a while yet.
I was surprised to see so much glasses-free 3D technology on show. I'm always slightly baffled from a consumer point of view why it's such an issue anyway. I don't think that having to wear glasses is such a barrier to the uptake of 3D. In fact, I've always thought of putting them on as part of the fun - something a bit different and more of an exciting event. What really gets me is that the autostereoscopic technology doesn't seem to have moved on a long way either. We're still all talking about a fairly limited number of sweet spots and, if you ask me, getting people to rearrange their furniture is a lot less realistic than asking them to stick on a pair of glasses - especially now that the passive, cheaper goggles option is picking up momentum. I think glassesless 3D is fantastic for cameras and camcorders where you need one person to have a quick look at what they've shot, but for TVs, it's a bit silly.
Tablets were also a bit of a surprise. We knew there'd be plenty but the 30-odd that turned up were quite the tsunami. Of that number, what really took me aback were the few that were either ready or looked actually worth buying. Whether we have to blame the non-arrival of Honeycomb or poor planning on the part of the manufacturers is another thing. Either way, there's still not much in the way of a viable alternative to the iPad. With the second iteration round the corner, it rather looks like Apple will have the space sewn up for yet another year.
In all, I thought it was a good year for CES - probably a few too many prototypes, not quite enough variation in gadgets and not an awful lot that you'll be able to actually buy - but that's being picky.
I didn't think there was that much at the show that was really new. The exciting things were advancements of existing technologies. 3D without glasses received a lot of attention, especially set against the current criticisms of 3DTV (especially the lack of content and impracticalities of wearing glasses) and Toshiba's commitment to hit the shelves in 2011 will leave early adopters scratching their heads. Elsewhere the mobile side of things saw Tegra 2 finally kick off with a range of hot new devices. I can't help feeling this is just the precursor to a flood of new and improved mobile devices at Mobile World Congress in February.
Disappointed is probably too harsh a word, but I didn't feel overly "fulfilled" by the tech on show. Sure there were cool looking tablets, TVs and smartphones a plenty - but was there really anything different than what we've already seen in 2010? Honeycomb looks good, and the Xoom looks spectacular, there's no arguing with that - but with the iPad 2 on the way, that's probably still not enough to topple Apple off of its perch. And the amount of duplication annoyed me. 80 tablets on show apparently, of which about 6 looked decent. Manufacturers, why not come up with something new instead of botching together a half-arsed copy?
It was no surprise that CES was dominated by two main areas of innovation: 3D-enabled devices and tablets. As the show this year was so focused, it seems that it took on a wider appeal with the public at large rather than just the hardcore tech enthusiast, as both 3D and tablets were technologies established in 2010.
CES certainly seemed busier this year and had much more of a buzz about it than a few of the most recent shows, where there wasn't much to shout about. There was plenty of 3D action on display as well as oodles of enhanced internet TV functions and some cool smartphones - although these products were mainly just building on innovations that we've already seen. The big news in 2011, was tablets. This year's event had more tablets on show than a pharmacy, which is good news for those that want an alternative to the iPad, even though it was clear that a lot of the devices on display will probably never even make it into the shops. Is it really worth showing tech journalists a "mock-up" device when we all know full well it's basically just a lump of plastic with a printed sticker where the screen should be? Not in my book.
If you missed out on any of the news from the show, don't worry - you can catch up at our dedicated CES page.