Las Vegas - It's no big surprise that tablets will play a prominent role at the 2011 International CES, least of all to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which has been predicting the explosion of the 5- to 15-inch screen size "sweet spot" for some time.
Shawn DuBravac, CEA chief economist research director, and Ben Arnold, senior research analyst, kicked off the pre-show lineup with the annual CES Trends to Watch. They noted during the presentation that 17 million tablet computers were sold this year, and this figure doesn't include e-readers.
Sure enough, this year's show will likely be the one of the tablet, with up to 100 tablets expected to appear on the floor, DuBravac said. What is helping drive the form factor's popularity is that consumers appear to be aligned with the optimal price point, which is right around $350.
"The manufacturers that are bringing these devices to market recognize that they'll be next to 100 other devices," he added. "They'll be trying to define unique use-case scenarios."
Also making treads at CES will be what Arnold termed "the intelligence of things." This includes manufacturers upgrading their existing products with new technologies, such as GPS, Internet and Bluetooth connectivity, and computing power.
Internet-connected TVs fall under this trend umbrella, and Arnold predicted it to be a prevalent one on the 2011 show floor. "This embodies computer power and online connectivity. More than half of televisions shipped will be Internet enabled in some way. It's really taking a share of that and moving it forward," he said.
DuBravac added: "Last year it was, â€˜This is a 3D TV, and it also has Internet connectivity.' This year things will be the reverse - â€˜This is an Internet-enabled TV that also does 3D.'"
As mentioned during the CEA Press Preview event, held in New York in November, miniaturization and "sensorization" will have a large emergence in this year's show. DuBravac noted that Microsoft sold 2.5 million Kinects in 25 days, which he called "the fastest-launching product in the history of consumer electronics ... [and] it is nothing but a box of sensors. It is an example of all of those sensors coming together to create a very different experience."
Apps, naturally, rounded out the list of expected trends on the list, although DuBravac noted that it's now "about manufacturers approaching that marketplace in a very different way than they have been. They started putting their foot in the water by allowing some minimal integration. They're taking advantage of those big broad ecosystems and allowing their hardware to be part of this broader user experience."
He pointed out that the industry is now seeing manufacturers create products where "the hardware is worthless without the app, and the app is worthless without the hardware. They're rethinking R&D - spending less time on remote controls and more time becoming part of this broader ecosystem."