Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Among the 100,000-plus people expected to descend on Las Vegas this week for the Consumer Electronics Show are hundreds of technology journalists, ranging from lone basement bloggers to teams of reporters, videographers and photographers from major tech websites and traditional news outlets.
Nearly every niche type of technology on display at the trade show will be covered, but several product categories are already getting lots of buzz in the industry blogosphere and are expected to receive some of the most attention and scrutiny at the show.
The Las Vegas Sun set out across the web to see what some of the major technology websites think will be the most talked about products at CES.
Packaged in slim, light cases while still offering serious computing punch, ultrabooks are the next step in the evolution of laptop computers and models from numerous manufacturers.
With a focus on portability and functionality, ultrabooks are reminiscent of similarly sized, affordably priced netbooks that were the talk of CES several years ago. Although ultrabooks are expected to cost more than their netbook counterparts, they will also pack in higher quality components — like solid-state hard drives — making them much speedier than relatively underpowered netbooks.
Apple in large part established the ultrabook market with its release of the MacBook Air in 2008. Although a luxury item at first due to its high price, a recent price drop to $999 has made the MacBook Air a hot buy for consumers and left other computer manufacturers itching to get in on the market.
Jon Phillips at Wired.com said as many as 50 ultrabook models could be launched this week at CES, from major manufacturers, including Toshiba, HP, Dell, Acer and Asus.
Phillips calls ultrabooks “lustworthy,” saying “Once you’ve lived and traveled with an ultrabook or MacBook Air for a few days, you don’t want to return to that heavy brick of a notebook you’ve merely been tolerating for so long.
The tablet market still largely begins and ends with Apple’s wildly successful iPad line of products. Tablets had a heavy presence at CES in 2011, but few besides those from Apple were able to catch on with consumers in any significant way until Amazon released its Android-powered Kindle Fire in late 2011.
The early success of the Kindle Fire, which combines solid hardware with an attractive $199 price point, gives hope to other tablet manufacturers trying to chip away at Apple’s lead in the sector.
Expect lots of models from lots of manufacturers touting increased performance, battery life and screen quality, tech websites said.
But much of the tablet discussion at CES won’t be focused on the hardware specs. Instead, interfaces and operating systems run by the tablets will take center stage, as Microsoft is expected to unveil its Windows 8 operating system, which will run on both tablets and personal computers.
Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest flavor of its Android operating system designed with the tablet in mind, is also expected to have a heavy presence on devices at the show.
Technology website Verge.com had this to say about tablets at CES 2012: “Tablets have been dominating CES for the past two years, but 2012 might finally be the show where we talk about them because of their quality instead of quantity."
Internet connectivity is expected to invade every device imaginable from washing machines to cars at CES this year. But perhaps the most practical and consumer-ready product to feature access to the web as a built in element will be Internet-connected televisions.
Although televisions that let you check email or watch YouTube videos on a big screen have been available for purchase throughout the last year, advancements in interface, interactivity and a decrease in price are expected to push these devices into the mainstream.
David Katzmaier at CNET.com predicts that CES will feature more televisions with built in wireless Internet connections, Internet browsers and better tools to navigate the web.
“TV makers have plenty to improve upon interactivity-wise,” Katzmaier said. “Nearly everyone should have built-in Wi-Fi, I expect more QWERTY remote controls, and manufacturers will continue to tout new apps. Web browsers will be even more common on TVs, but they'll probably still suck.”