CES 2013: The 3 Biggest Themes May Fail to Impress

Jeff Macke

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is the must-see annual event for tech geeks. Every year tech companies show off the products and trends they think will be must-haves for the year and beyond. Sometimes the goods on display provide a glimpse of the future. Other years, like 2012 when Samsung presented a GPS-based Roomba and seemingly every television manufacturer on earth showed off 3D TVs, the show is a road map of failures to come.

CNBC Technology Correspondent Jon Fortt joined Breakout to tell us where Big Tech is placing its bets at the 2013 show:

Huge Televisions

"A lot of stuff that you see out here might not actually see the light of day for a while, if ever," says Fortt in the attached video. "The TVs certainly fall into that category." Why won't they see the light of day? Two reasons. First, televisions as a product category aren't broken. Second, the new sets are absurdly expensive ways to solve problems no one has.

Specifically Fortt points to OLED and 4K TVs. Ranging from $10,000 to $20,000, the OLED offers sharper colors but still within the HD space. The 4K sets give a sharper picture with no content and at much higher prices. Put it this way, the leap from regular to HD was noticeable and impressive. The move from HD to 4K is a way to say "I have more money than I know what to do with."

Touchable, Detachable Laptop screens

Next Fortt shared Lenovo's combination tablet / laptop. The form factor may have a place in enterprise, but for most users they are too clunky and lack the applications that most users want. On the surface, so to speak, the tablet laptop mash-ups seem to be an overreaction to the market failure of last year's CES push for Ultralights.


Calling the smartphone space "the start of CES," Fortt notes that the phones themselves are almost an afterthought. No one uses a smartphone just to talk anymore. Instead the units exist largely as ways for other smart devices to "piggyback off wi-fi" as Fortt puts it. That translates into smarter cars among other formerly dumb and un-wired devices.

"Big phones seem to be all the rage here," says Fortt. The "Phablets" - phones that fill the form-factor space between 4-inch normal phones and 7-inch tablets - offer users a way to get phone connections and surf the 'net with a screen large enough to be useful. Not coincidentally, the phablets also give users a screen large enough for aging eyes to see.

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