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A Really Big Show …

Well, my 21st International CES is in the books and, in my opinion, it was the most upbeat and positive show in several years. Kicking off with a packed house of international press at CES Unveiled, the first thing that struck me was the preponderance of smart home products and wearables. It seemed like three-quarters of the tabletop displays controlled something in the home or measured some biometric of the body. After hearing the term ad nauseam for the last year and a half or so, the Internet of Things has finally arrived.

When the show opened on Tuesday, the veteran crew we assemble every year to produce the Official CES Daily publications was in agreement that the traffic on the show floor was heavier than in recent years, and it was later confirmed by CEA president Gary Shapiro that attendance set a record at around 170,000.

What the throngs saw product-wise was impressive. The brightest, flattest, clearest 4K Ultra HD TVs yet have arrived, and this show produced enough news regarding hardware and content that several dealers TWICE talked to could barely contain their excitement about the category’s potential this year. Check out Greg Tarr’s assessment of the key elements of the Ultra HD introductions, as well as reports on the first 4K download service, a new industry alliance on picture quality technology, and advancements in the potential for portability of 4K content from the coming wave of UHD Bluray players through the use of a new SD card.

On the connected home front, senior editor Joseph Palenchar dug deep to glean whatever he could from suppliers regarding the imminent arrival of products leveraging Apple’s HomeKit home-automation initiative. Despite the company’s continued absence at CES, and its usual moratorium on partners with loose lips, Joe learned that Apple, uncharacteristically, is letting loose the reins on its usually tightly-controlled product ecosystem. See his exclusive report. High-res audio was also in the spotlight and got some star power sheen as rock legend Neil Young made his CES debut to unveil his Pono Music World download service and hype the availability of his portable Pono Player. Portability, wireless distribution, new surround technologies and improved sound quality dominated the audio scene at the show and we break down the highlights on pages 8, 36 and 38.

While at the show, senior editor (and TWICE headphones guru) Lisa Johnston noticed a trend that is, in my estimation, long overdue: the death — or at least decline — of the celebrity headphones craze. While they certainly still exist, and Beats still dominates the market, all the progress made in recent years in improving sound quality has apparently caught up to consumers. This shift in the market, and other can trends, are outlined in her report.

As for wearables … well, there was so much to report on that we couldn’t do it justice in limited space, so we’re going to devote a good chunk of our next issue, publishing on Feb. 2, to a cover feature: “The World Of Wearables,” which will span the broad spectrum of products and technologies on display at CES.

And if you’re a “just show me the cool gadgets” kind of a person, check out our TWICE Picks Awards for what we thought was the best CES had to offer.