With the new year upon us, once the confetti is swept up, the leftover champagne dumped and the hangovers fade, the technology world's attention will turn to Las Vegas, site of the annual Consumer Electronics Association's trade show, the most important U.S. tech event of the year.
Manufacturers, wireless carriers, developers -- and their investors -- all hope the Consumer Electronics Show, set for Jan. 8 through 11, will set trends and raise the profile of their products and services.
What To Watch For
And jockeying for position already, some companies have started teasing their big news. Samsung Electronics, enjoying sweeping success with smartphones, on Thursday raised expectations for its latest smart television set with a cute video showing older TVs, both CRT and flat-screen flocking to see the window-shaped newcomer, covered for now by a sheet.
Not to be outdone, rival LG leaked word that it will release the highest resolution 4k2k ultra-definition monitor along with its TV lineup. 4K2k means four times current high definition resolution, or a 3640x2160-pixel image.
But the big revolution in TV could be in set-top boxes, a device class whose time has yet to come. Apple has long struggled to get its Apple TV device -- which streams Web content from Wi-Fi to a big screen -- beyond what it has called a hobby to a top seller like the iPad and iPhone. Google has also tried to get Google TV to be a household name.
They'll soon have some heavy competition in chip-making giant Intel, reports suggest. Industry insiders told two tech sites Intel will use CES to unveil a "virtual cable" service that will be negotiated with regional providers rather than rolled out nationwide because many providers don't want to unbundle their channels.
Tech Crunch cited sources saying the chipmaker eyed its own service after failing to get its chips used for Google TV.
Technology consultant Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group said the 4K is likely to be one of the top three CES stories. "What may make this work is easy upscaling so that current HD programming will work brilliantly on the sets and you won't blow out data plans if you stream them," Enderle told us. "3D just didn't take largely due to both the glasses and the lack of compelling 3D content."
Ultra-Def, Jumbo Tabs and Connected Cars
The other two trends: Jumbo tablets and in-car entertainment systems, Enderle predicts.
"This is taking the tablet concept and making it more of a family product with screens approaching 30 inches," Enderle said. "More of a cross between a digital board game and a rethinking of the portable TV in an all-in-one form factor that has a battery ."
He sees Ford standing out in the automotive arena.
"Think higher wireless connectivity, better integration with phones and tablets, and some interesting steps to better connect your music experience in home to the one you have in your car," said Enderle, adding "Clearly we will be up to our armpits in Windows 8 products -- the touchscreen shortage has kept most off the shelves this year -- and accessories for phones and tablets will be plentiful as well."