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CES snapshot tells industry fortunes

Analysis The tablets keep on coming
Mon Jan 10 2011, 18:02

BEYOND THE FINAL ARRIVAL of Android 3.0 Honeycomb, what dramatic changes were there for the industry at the annual tech fest that is the Consumer Electronics Show?

Some might point to the decision to have Windows work with ARM, but the rest of Microsoft's presence was so weak that an apparent strategic chipset addition is unlikely to stop the longer term trends that can be observed.

There were no dramatic developments at CES and instead the event simply reinforced what the industry has known is coming, the licence fee model for software has three feet in the grave and Intel can't crack the low power regime. The plethora of Android tablets said it all about Microsoft's business model and was another example of how Google's way of working will become dominant in the 21st century.

If that dominance isn't obvious then spend some time looking for Windows 7 tablets amidst everything else. You won't find much. Even one of the companies that had opted for Microsoft, Viewsonic, ditched the operating system with its Viewpad 10S. The previous Viewpad 10 was a dual boot that had Windows 7 and Android 1.6.

Steve Ballmer's presentation of Windows 8 at CES wasn't convincing anyone and it's an OS that could be "dead on arrival," to use Steve Jobs words, if Chrome becomes as successful as some think it will over the next year or 18 months.

Not only were tablet announcements dominated by Android but phones saw the Google OS tipping up everywhere. What with LG and Acer both announcing Android handsets it is of no surprise that in news unrelated to CES Google OS is challenging the Iphone.

Apple stayed away but rumours abounded before CES that Steve Jobs would have something to say after the techie shindig. How could anything at CES share the spotlight with Apple's shiny toys anyway?

It wasn't all good news for Google at CES. As we have seen over the past few months few in the entertainment industry want to allow the search engine company world domination over telly programs and movies. Google TV has been snubbed by all the US networks and some film studios.

Yahoo, on the other hand, saw a chink of light for it after a 2010 that saw little to shout about. Yahoo announced at CES that it had done deals in the US with CBS, the Showtime channel and the Home Shopping Network for an interactive TV pilot program. UK consumers are more likely to see the results of the Bing using websites deal with Disney. Open source web TV software Boxee also progressed with it tipping up in a NAS product.

And then there is the technology that few actually want and will not die, 3D. One imagines that the next step for Google TV and all the Connected TV purveyors is to offer products with a 3D selling point but instead CES just saw more of the same. More eye boggling screens with more expensive glasses the kids are bound to lose down the back of the sofa. Meanwhile no glasses needed, auto-stereoscopic screens were dangled as future wonder products.

Nvidia launched its 3D community website, a sort of Flickr and Youtube for eye boggling pictures and video. It will be interesting to see how many users it gets.

Talking of Nvidia, the other major hardware announcements at CES 2011 were the Green Goblin's Geforce GT 500M family, Intel's Sandy Bridge and AMD's Fusion. The latter two were hugely foreshadowed in 2010 with many announcements and unofficial announcements, known as leaks, before CES.

Putting aside the ludicrous sales pitch that comes with these sorts of products Sandy Bridge, Nvidia's Geforce GT 500M and Fusion are, ultimately, welcome but to be expected improvements on past products. With browsing and office suite programs only needing a fraction of the processing power available today, the focus on gamers and workstation builders is inevitable.

As a snapshot of the industry CES simply confirmed trends that emerged in the last 18 months and have been seen for longer, Microsoft doesn't understand what to do next and Google is changing the landscape around it. µ


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