Quo vadis, CES?

The Consumer Electronics Show taking place in Las Vegas last week was described by the New York Times as “a deafening showcase for tablets, thin TV screens, superthin laptops and Android phones”. Gail Purvis takes a quick look to what new technological goodies will be heading our way this year.

Since the 1980s, CES has been a curtain-raiser for all the next big things in technology. Long ago, Apple went solo and has increasingly stolen CES’s thunder with its own San Francisco-based MacWorld event (now morphing into iWorld), which takes place at the end of January.

Out on the show floor, there was all the usual hoopla and product announcements, many of which were specficlly designed to appeal to savvy business technology buyers.

Portability was king once again, with major producers focusing on making their devices smaller and lighter. At the top end of the spectrum, HP unveiled its Envy 14 Spectre, a premium ultrabook priced at $1,399.99. Touting a near-indestructible Gorilla Glass display, top-quality audio and specs to rival some desktops, this and offerings such as Dell’s XPS 13 and ASUS’ Zenbook are likely to be the every exec-on-the-go’s wishlist come Q2.

The business tablet market looks to be ready for a more focused marketing push as well. Acer revealed three new Iconia Tab devices, but ASUS stole the show with an updated Transformer Prime (pictured above), which combines the functionality of a traditional laptop with the quick access and ease of use of a tablet. Bundled with a 10.1in full HD screen, dual cameras and a range of excellent productivity applications (including the SuperNote secure file management app) and priced below $1,000, it may be the ideal compromise tool for any entrepreneurs looking for an all-in-one portable business system.

With the tablet revolution gaining momentum, we’re keen to know whether AccountingWEB members are ready to ditch the keyboard and mouse in favour of more tactile, gesture-based computers. Would you ever be tempted to make the switch?

As usual, CES had its fair share of surprises as well. Alongside Nokia’s ambitious push into Windows Phone 7 with their stylish and powerful Lumia 900, Intel introduced its first smartphone, the K800, a joint venture between the processor company and laptop specialist Lenovo. Where once the iPhone and other entertainment-centric handsets dominated, eyes are now on how well users can handle their emails, schedules and workflow through pocket devices when away from their desks (if they still even have one!).

With the rise of the “bring your own device” tendency, the divide between business and consumer tech is blurring. Tech-savvy millennial knowledge workers are not content to use what they view as substandard tools and will use their own smartphones and laptops if their employer’s tech is not up to scratch.

But if there’s no longer a divide, people are beginning to question whether there needs to be a separate CES. At this year’s event, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer’s keynote was a symbolic farewell. Next year, the Windows giant won’t be there as CES doesn’t fit with its development calendar. Instead, it will host its own consumer tech launch events - just like Apple.

As more manufacturers and developers follow the example of Apple and Microsoft and space out their product releases to ensure competitive offerings, it simply may no longer be viable to focus on one expensive, week-long event.

The electronics industry will continue to thrive and innovate in 2012, but will this be the last year in which CES sets the annual technology agenda?

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