The 2010 Consumer Electronics Show starts this week in lovely Las Vegas. I'm going, and I'll be looking for a few things and hoping to learn a few things.
There will be some 2,500 exhibitors and 110,000 attendees. I don't know what the CES can be compared to--it's big, it's busy, and for tech-lovers, it's cool.
A lot of how you interact with technology will be determined at this year's CES -- as has been the case with past shows. CEA president Gary Shapiro has said, "More technology deals will be made during the four days of CES than anywhere else on earth."
And Shapiro told CNN: "In my 28 years of attending the CES and participating in it and being a part of it and running it for most of that time, I can honestly say there will be more innovation at this show than any one in history."
A lot of CES is about gadgets and advances in technology. Here is what I'm going to be looking for to understand technological advances.
There are three trends I think will influence the direction of technology in 2010: MOBILE, SOCIAL and DEVICE-SHIFTING.
By MOBILE, I mean of course the advances of our phones becoming full-featured computers--take anything you can do on your laptop and stick it in your pocket. Now add the power your phone has to know where exactly you are and content companies will give you a better experience, in theory, based on that location. Anything you've turned to the web to do will be accessible on your mobile phone--or what Google with their Nexus One is calling a "Superphone" with the computing power my laptop had four years ago. (But probably still worse battery life than my wind-up watch.)
By SOCIAL, I mean what, for lack of a better term, I'll call the Facebook effect. Imagine watching the big game or big episode on TV but doing it with your friends who are 2000 miles away. That is coming--you'll be interacting through Twitter threads, Facebook comment threads and maybe even a Skype video-voice box on your TV screen. Trash talk the other team. Comment on major public events. Participate in what is on your screen--not just watch it.
DEVICE-SHIFTING is a newer term but think of this as breaking down the walls between what different devices do. You can use your TV as part of your phone system. Or use your mobile phone to watch TV. Or use your computer for either or both. Even your car is going to get in on the action as future cars will take WiFi and Bluetooth functions to another level. And while this device shifting is going on, a whole world of software and online applications will follow behind it not to mention accessories. Interactive and 3D television is around the corner too.
But beyond these trends on the bleeding edge, I'm also looking for how the macro-environment that technology exists in is changing or will change. For 2010, that falls into a two categories for me: adoption and capacity.
By adoption I mean, how do we make more of this available to more people? TV is used by some 95% of Americans but the Internet by only 63% or so. What if we added 50% of those non-adopters to the Internet? How would the world change? Better democracy? Better media?
By capacity I mean, how do our networks support all of this? For while the wired 50-100Mbps networks are faster than most applications and users, the wireless networks are being strained by the exciting advances. Its a high class problem actually--people love their iPhones, Blackberries and Smartphones so much they are, well, using them. And the laws of physics are putting our wireless networks on a crash course in the next few years without some changes somewhere. I'll be looking for how the industry is thinking about that.
Look for more reports from CES--and leave comments on things you want me to check out. And keep an eye out for some of these big changes. CES isn't just about new tech gadgets, it's also about how technology is, can and will change the world.
Follow Tom Matzzie on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tommatzzie