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2015 CES Preview: Connected Everything

CES 2015 Preview

The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) opens Tuesday. What new tech wonders will it have on display?

Mostly: iterations. Thinner devices, more use of wireless technology, and a focus on mobile and transportation. But while we don’t expect any major breakthroughs, the show is still important. The majority of new tech products are debuted here for the benefit of industry buyers: the people who decide what to stock on store shelves, in Web retail inventory, and for big corporate IT departments.

Here’s what your tech buyers will be seeing — and what they’ll be selling you on in 2015:

TVs: Thinner, curvier, and more 4K

Manufacturers are going all in on 4K with lower price points and more design options, like the bizarre and barely justified curved sets that debuted last year.

But there’s one glaring problem: content. There isn’t much of it. None of the networks are broadcasting in 4K, and the streaming options have issues: bandwidth, cost, and lack of premium shows. To see the 4K standard advance, we need content deals and streaming 4K technologies to evolve more than the hardware. 4K announcements from satellite TV providers like DISH and DirecTV would offer a huge bump, but no one expects wholesale offerings in 4K yet. Thinking back to the adoption of HD as a broadcast standard, the real tipping point for consumers was when they saw their first sports event broadcast in HD, so look for 4K announcements for a sporting event or two.

There is one interesting hardware story to follow here: What ultra-HD or 4K displays will emerge as the standard? Will it be OLED screens with 4K or 8K resolution or LG’s new Quantum Dot technology?

It’s like the Nest but for …

A surprising number of CES pitches I’ve received have been for products described as “like the Nest but for [insert any activity or task that happens in your home].” The implication here is that by adding WiFi connectivity, an app, and some good design, many onerous home chores can be revamped into an automated Jetsons-like home.

For example, there’s a doorbell that rings on your smartphone, new connected appliance features, and security options for the modern lock and key. What excites me here is that after years of home automation processes that didn’t seem unified or easily managed, we are now seeing design and ease of use taking center stage. Also big players are making a play for the home space, specifically Apple with its HomeKit. The ecosystem that wins the home at CES may be more important than the individual products.

Previously: Daniel Howley’s CES 2015 Predictions

Laptops stop the acrobatic acts

In recent years, we’ve seen laptop hybrids and convertibles trying to compete with tablets. This year the industry will stop the bending, flipping, and detaching to focus more on the traditional desktop experience, especially with the new Windows 10 operating system launching later this year.

Some phones and tablets

Rumors do point to a possible release of a new Samsung Note Pro tablet, and possibly a Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG Flex 2 announcement. But look to second-tier phone makers like ZTE and Huawei to debut phones while top-tier companies wait for the Mobile World Congress in Spain later this spring.

Wearables get very specific

With the Apple Watch coming out later this spring, this is the last window for other smartwatches to make an unencumbered debut.

Rumors are that legendary watch maker TAG Heuer will release a smartwatch. Expect new versions of Android wearable devices to come out. Also look for tons of new partnership apps that sync your smartwatch with health devices, as well as your car, the lights in your kitchen, and your cat’s litter box (just kidding, I hope). The wrist is the new spot for innovation, except for fitness trackers.

Fitness trackers give up the wrist

Last year we saw an uptick in connected sports gear: basketballs with motion sensors and tennis rackets that measure your topspin. This year will continue this trend, taking the fitness tracker into shirts that measure exertion, socks that measure foot-strike patterns, and other forms of fitness-specific metrics.

Virtual reality

Last year the Oculus Rift headset was the talk of the show. The expectation was that this immersive visual technology would start to move beyond the gaming world in 2014.

Movie studios and news outlets alike have experimented with the 360-degree filming technology, but VR isn’t mainstream yet and may never be. CES helps to cull the fads from the real emerging trends, and this year could be make or break for virtual reality.