2010 Consumer Electronics Show – Recovery Signs and Products/Technologies to Watch

2010 Consumer Electronics Show – Recovery Signs and Products/Technologies to Watch

No doubt a question we are all asking is, “what does this Consumer Electronics Show (CES) tell us about the “recovery”? A vibrant US consumer is important not only to our national and global economy, but especially important to the automotive industry. A successful CES and specifically a well-attended CES, is an important indicator of economic health and a signpost that the US industry is investing in innovation and the development of new technologies.

Good news – the floor and hallways were much more congested than last year. Unofficial 2010 attendance is estimated at 120,000 up from a low of 113,085 in 2009. In 2008 the attendance peaked at 144,150. CES continues to be the biggest technology and consumer product trade show in the United States with 1.85 million square feet of exhibit space, featuring more than 2,500 companies. Another key observation is that the Telematics Update Conference, Consumer Telematics (CTS), which is held the day before CES was well attended. Attendance for this excellent conference increased from 160 in 2008 to 260 this year (unofficial count). Our Autotechinsider.com CES report includes key takeaways from this “insider” conference as well as CES – the "greatest show" in the US. The CTS conference, and Gartner keynote, provided a crash course in the state of infotainment and indicates the growing interest in infotainment as a differentiator, followed by the question – “and how do we make money”?

As expected with the success of SYNC, the show confirmed that Ford thinks Consumer Electronics (CE) technology sells cars. The Ford CEO, Alan Mulally and his team gave an upbeat and well-orchestrated keynote and in many ways up-staged Steve Balmer’s opening keynote Wednesday evening. More importantly, after walking the North, South and Central Halls, I counted 20 vehicles from Ford strategically placed throughout CES – Focus, F150 and especially Taurus SHO. Kia also had a significant number of vehicles placed on the CES floor, in the Kia North Hall booth and in the Microsoft booth in Central Hall.

This year a significant number of exhibits were focused on technologies specific to the automobile with a focus on software, such that CES can be characterized as the year of “Application Software”. Applications are a new differentiator. For example in the North Hall, home of mobile, there were several companies showcasing applications to deal with driver distraction – texting blockers and other approaches to deal with driver distraction. As in previous years, each of the following technology areas was well represented: audio systems, navigation devices as accessories, displays and of course LBS devices, especially a wealth of new smart phones. This CES how to deal with driver distraction was a key topic. New approaches such as texting blockers or apps to convert texts to speech were shown.

This venue is not only the place to first see new electronic consumer products, but also to identify which of these gadgets have potential as future car options or accessories. The automotive community visits CES to identify which popular consumer electronics products will be ready for prime time as accessories. According to automotive OEM market research, customers will consider these products as accessories for their cars if the cost is in the $200-400 price range and they are safe and easy to use in a car.

The following is a list of key technologies shown at this year’s CES:
• 3D TV is now affordable, but will it be hassle proof? The consumer will decide, but we think it is great for games and sports. HD drove CE sales for the last several years; will 3D provide the same stimulus? 3D is finding its way into automotive as 3D nav and graphical interfaces.
• Smart phones, Smartbooks, Slate PCs, and netbooks providing internet connectivity that is affordable and mainstream. Qualcomm, Nokia and Intel keynotes describe this trend and showed on stage a cornucopia of products.
• Digital reading, eReaders and netbooks everywhere – serious competition to the Kindle. Also we wait for Apple to announce a netbook/tablet as a color magazine reader.
• Eco-friendly products – smart devices that are demand configurable
• Health and wellness products that exploit wireless
• Driver distraction related products – text blockers and text to speech apps
• Home Automation – wireless in door locks, controlling a full range of devices using Z-wave or Zigbee. This year more floor space is dedicated to these products.
• Software apps and application stores – Pandora integration into radios and navigation (e.g. Pioneer and Ford SYNC). Applications stores everywhere and new software platforms – how will they be executed and will there be customer satisfaction issues?
• Broadcast Digital TV in the car – ASTC (free) and FLO TV (subscription)
• Wireless HDMI/HDTV, DLNA, etc. – approaches to stream and seamless interface to multimedia to any device anywhere.
• Emergence of the Chinese consumer market. Hisense is the first Chinese company to present a keynote at CES and described the emergence of their consumer market and their role.

Autotechinsider (www.autotechinsider.com) provides an overview of key CES technologies and products, indicating implications for the automotive industry. We think our reports are priced very reasonably and represents a value…see for yourself. It also presents a summary of the key trends we recognize and provides insight into their implications. See you at CTIA in late March, Telematics Update in May and CES in Jan 2011.

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