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CES 2011: tablets and televisions set to dominate a connected show


The Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid device. Photo: Getty Images

The Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid device. Photo: Getty Images

The Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid device. Photo: Getty Images

As the Consumer Electronics Show gets under way in Las Vegas, all the talk is of Apple.

Although the iPod-maker does not attend CES, on Thursday it is set to unveil its Mac App Store and rumours are rife that it will release a version of the iPhone compatible with US network Verizon, too.

The former could revolutionise how we buy software on computers; the latter is set to see the company power even further beyond its record $300bn valuation.

When it comes to products, Apple is also setting the tone. At CES a slew of iPad competitors is coming – one of the best is most likely to be previewed by Motorola, whose unnamed Android tablet was shown off by Google's Andy Rubin late last year.

Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester, reckons that "tablets are proving themselves to be lifestyle devices at home and at work, and as such we think consumers will upgrade to newer models more rapidly than they would a more utilitarian device like a PC".

This is music to manufacturers' ears, and specifically to Apple investors: "In other words, we think a significant number of first-generation iPad buyers will buy iPad 2 when it comes out this year," continues Rotman Epps.

The Consumer Electronics Association's Chief Economist, Shawn DuBravac, estimates more than 100 new tablets will be seen at CES.

The other key trend is the rise of the connected and, preferably, 3D television.

In the UK, the Boxee Box, for instance, is a set-top box that adds internet connection to any TV. But, as Forrester researchers also note, "Internet connected TVs will continue their steady penetration into consumers' homes, in large part due to retailers' commitment to only sell connected TVs in the future."

By 2015, the firm estimates that 58 per cent of all TVs sold will be "connected".

The theme binding these two together at CES, however, is connectivity: 2011 is the year where tablets, TV, phones and almost every other major device will be online by default.

LG, for instance, has been pushing its 'Thinq' line hard at CES, which allows a smart meter to control and monitor smart refrigerators, washing machines, ovens, vacuum cleaners and of course media players, computers, TVs and phones.

Gadget magazine T3 recently dubbed 2010 the best year for technology 'ever' – that may sound hyperbolic, but what's really interesting is that it's 2011 that will see devices that capitalise and consolidate on the progress made in 2010.

The magazine made the claim, rightly, based on the way that new technologies that made the iPhone, for instance, so clever.

Accelerometers, for instance, sense movement and can even be used by apps to automatically dial the emergency services in certain circumstances.

What's becoming clear at CES is that this sort 'combinational innovation' in new technology is only the start of a Brave New World. That's exciting, but the pace of change is dauntingly rapid.