CES 2012 Preview: What To Expect


CES Press Pass screenshot

The biggest tech trade show in the U.S. is just a week away. And while Apple doesn’t officially take part in the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), its influence will be everywhere.

Take Ultrabooks, for example — the PC industry’s answer to the hyper-successful MacBook Air. Attempting to catch up, Apple’s rivals will be showcasing 30 to 50 new models at CES.

There’s also the iLounge pavilion, a section devoted to Apple-related products, which has grown huge this year. The iLounge has balooned from 4,000 square feet in 2008 to 85,000. We think there’ll be plenty to report on, so we’re blowing out CES 2012 in a big way. We’re sending six reporters to Las Vegas, bringing you all the news here on Cult of Mac.com and our sister blog, Cult of Android.com.

We expect a ton of new peripherals, apps and add-ons. There’s plenty more going on, from new smart TVs to smartphone-friendly cars. Here’s what to expect from the show:

CES 2012 looks like it’s going to be one of the biggest in history. Running January 9 to 13 at the Las Vegas Convention Center and other venues, the show is expected to attract more than 149,000 attendees. That’s close to the record of 152,000 in 2006.

There will be more than 2,700 exhibitors stretched over more than 1.8 million square feet of exhibit space. It’s so large, ESPN will be staging a full-size boxing match on the show floor and broadcasting it in 3D.

Aside from the Apple-specific announcements that we’ll be reporting on (more on that this week), here’s what else will be going on:

A slew of Ultrabooks (MacBook Air knockoffs) — With rumors of a 15-inch MacBook Air from Apple, its rivals are gearing up to match the thin, sleek, instant-on machines. There will be 30 to 50 Ultrabooks unveiled next week, according to the show’s organizers. Expect a range of sizes and capabilities, with prices likely to start at $699.

New chips — Intel CEO Paul Otellini will likely detail new Ivy Bridge processors during his keynote, which will also inevitably feature some Ultrabook designs from Intel’s PC partners. The chips themselves won’t ship until later in 2012.

Next-gen game consoles: Both Microsoft and Sony have said that current consoles will be good for at least another year. But that hasn’t stopped rumors of a preview — and perhaps the launch — of the Xbox 720 demo at CES. And if Microsoft demos, Sony can’t be far behind with the PlayStation 4. Nintendo has already said it will show off the Wii-U, a tablet-console hybrid that was announced at E3.

Big, beautiful OLED TVs While OLED screens are steadily making their way into smartphones from Samsung, Nokia and Motorola, the inability to make big panels has kept the technology away from TVs — until now. That’s a shame, because OLED’s lack of backlighting gives it much better black levels than LCD or LED. It also boasts higher contrast ratio, better colors, slimmer and lighter sets and power efficiency. Look for 55-inch prototypes from both Samsung and LG.

Bezel-less TVs with Siri-like controls — Samsung’s bezel-less TVs have set the design standard for flat panels, and rivals are expected to trot out dozens of new sets. Some will also likely feature new control schemes, including voice recognition, gestures and scroll wheels.

Ultra-high resolution 4K TV — LG is expected to unveil a 84-inch 4K TV at CES with a staggering 3480 x 2160 pixel resolution. There may be more form other manufacturers. More pixels is always better, right? Trouble is, critics say the human eye can’t differentiate between 4K and regular HD on anything smaller than a theater-sized set.

Android tablets running Ice Cream Sandwich — There’s going to be plenty of new tablets based on NVidia’s quad-core Tegra 3 chip, which promises better graphics performance, but it’s unclear how many will be running Google’s Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich. Some observers think some of the new tablets at CES will still be running on Android 3.2 Honeycomb.

Android phones running Ice Cream Sandwich — There may not be many tablets running Ice Cream Sandwich, but there should be plenty of new phones. These will also likely be based on Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra 3. We’ll be detailing every one on Cult of Android.com.

Smarter cars — Mercedes Benz and Ford are both giving keynotes at CES 2012, and are likely to demo new in-car navigation and control systems that take cues from multitouch interfaces. There will also be tighter integration with smartphones, both Apple and Android.

Windows 8 — Microsoft’s last keynote at CES will undoubtedly see Steve Ballmer revealing more details about Windows 8, its dual-purpose OS that will run on both computers and tablets. Ballmer will likely announce the first public beta, which is tipped to be available in February.

New DSLR and CSC cameras — This year CES is also hosting the PMA (Photo Marketing Association) trade show, the major confab of the camera industry. Canon and Nikon are rumored to be introducing major DSLR updates, while Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, Olympus and Fuji will be debuting major new compact system camera (CSC) models. More details about cameras later this week.