The event in las vegas marks the start of a trio of international trade shows: the mobile world trade show in barcelona at the end of february, followed at the beginning of march by cebit with its focus on digital technology in the enterprise.
2012 could be the year of mobile devices with new fast processors. "The more users ask for high-resolution content, the more important high processor performance becomes on mobile devices," says holger schmidt from taiwanese manufacturer asus, referring to videos and games. Quad-core processors make smartphones and tablet computers faster by processing user instructions in parallel in four computing cores.
"As devices become smarter and operating systems more sophisticated, quad-core processors can keep devices running fast enough," says carolina milanesi of the gartner market research institute. However, the power chips can only be installed sensibly if the disadvantages of heat development and higher power consumption are under control.
The processors for mobile devices are dominated by the british chip developer ARM – their technology has been licensed by manufacturers such as qualcomm and nvidia. ARM is being challenged by the chip giant intel, which is finally gaining a foothold in the smartphone market. But ARM still dominates: at CES, asus is showing its transformer prime tablet computer with the quad-core tegra 3 processor from nvidia. Acer, lenovo and HTC also announced tablets with such chips in las vegas.
At apple, the ARM-based A6 with four cores is in the pipeline. It is not yet known whether this processor, manufactured by samsung, will already be at work in the ipad 3 – the third generation of the apple tablet is expected in the first half of this year.
In addition to more computing power, support for the latest mobile communications technology is a topic for the further development of tablet computers like smartphones: the LTE networks are intended to accelerate the mobile internet: theoretically, they can transmit data at a speed of up to 100 megabits per second (mbit/s). In practice, they are usually slower, but still significantly faster than UMTS.
Microsoft wants to put its as yet unfinished windows 8 in the foreground at the CES – this operating system is also to be used on tablet computers and compete with the google system android. But the new windows also supports the chip technology of ARM for the first time.
The first windows 8 tablets could be available as early as the third quarter, i.E. Almost at the same time as the expected completion of the operating system in the fall; acer and lenovo are the manufacturers being discussed. The windows 8 graphical user interface adopts the tiles used to launch apps in windows phone 7. A first beta version was available at the CES; the test version available so far is a "developer preview" that gives a first insight into the new system. Gartner expert milanesi expects that the new windows tablets will initially appeal primarily to business customers.
NFC will be an important CES topic for smartphones: "near field communication" makes the cell phone a means of payment, cashless transfers in passing. One of the pioneers is google, which provides the hardware with the nexus S smartphone and the payment service with wallet. "We’ll see more devices," says milanesi. But it will still take some time before payment systems are ready for it.
Tablet computers are causing problems for the established notebook business. However, new impetus is being provided by "ultrabooks": the concept designed by intel of a particularly flat laptop with a long battery life, short start-up time and no DVD/CD player is being implemented by dell, hewlett-packard, samsung and lenovo, among others, and will be prominently presented at CES.
Mobility also means digital technology for the car. "The product innovations in the automotive sector that will be presented at CES are indispensable for today’s driving experience," said the president of the trade show organizer CEA (consumer electronics association), gary shapiro. In addition to microsoft CEO steve ballmer, daimler CEO dieter zetsche will also give a keynote speech at this year’s CES.
The focus of the trade show is traditionally on consumer electronics. The korean manufacturer LG electronics will be showing what it claims is the world’s largest TV set with OLED screen technology, which uses organic light-emitting diodes that do not require the backlighting characteristic of LCD displays. The OLED TV from LG has a screen diagonal of 55 inches (just under 140 cm) – and an expected price of around 10,000 dollars (7730 euros).
More than 2700 exhibitors will present their products at the consumer electronics show – last year there were just as many. However, microsoft has already stated that it will no longer be present in 2013 – the date of the trade show does not fit the company’s product cycle. This time, a separate exhibition area is dedicated to internet startups: in the new "eureka park techzone", 94 companies are presenting themselves in the hope of establishing themselves with their products in the future IT landscape.
"We expect more than 140,000 participants from all over the world," explains CEA spokeswoman tara dunion. Last year 149 529 visitors came to las vegas.
For consumers, the fireworks of tablet innovations expected at CES mean that the devices introduced last year will become cheaper. Sony was the first manufacturer to lower its price at the beginning of the year: the tablet S is now ten percent cheaper than before.