Tablets galore, a fightback from notebook PCs and new takes on television are expected to be among the highlights of the world’s biggest Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft chief executive, is expected to unveil its latest take on slates (or tablets) when he delivers an annual eve-of-show address on Wednesday.
He will be sandwiched by announcements and demonstrations of tablets running rival Android, webOS and QNX operating systems, from the likes of Toshiba, HP and Research in Motion.
Toshiba unveiled its first tablet for the US on Monday – it has a 10.1-inch high-resolution screen, front and rear cameras and greater connectivity than the Apple iPad, with USB ports and an SD memory card slot included. But, like many tablet makers, it is waiting for Google to release its next version of Android, code-named Honeycomb, which has been specially designed to accommodate tablets, in the first half of 2011. Apple is expected to update the iPad in the meantime.
Rivals to the iPad have been handicapped by the lack of a mature operating system and HP has delayed its big splash on tablets while it readies ones based on the webOS operating system from last year’s acquisition of Palm. They should be on display this week, along with the BlackBerry Playbook from RIM.
“This is going to be the year of the superphone and the Android tablets,” says Jen-hsun Huang, chief executive of graphics chipmaker Nvidia, referring to high-powered smartphones also on the way.
In televisions, manufacturers have also been waiting for Google, with its Android-based Google TV web interface still in need of work. While Sony has launched Google TV televisions, Toshiba has dropped plans to show Google TV-based sets at CES, saying the software is not ready enough.
Vizio, a leading LCD TV maker in the US, will show internet-connected TVs based on Android, but with Vizio’s own interface running on top. It is also breaking out into tablets and phones, showing a slate and a smartphone running the same interface.
Vizio says it is standardising on simpler “Theater 3D” polarised 3D glasses, which a number of eyewear makers will be displaying at the show. “They use the same standard as the movie theatres, they’re much more comfortable for consumers, they don’t have to be charged and they don’t cost $150 a piece,” says Matthew McRae, Vizio chief technology officer.
3D without the need for glasses will be shown on smaller screens such as those of cellphones, games consoles and on a Toshiba notebook PC.
The traditional PC industry, led by Intel – which is launching new chips code-named Sandy Bridge that integrate graphics processing – will be pointing out the extra performance of notebooks over tablets.