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CES 2013: The Verge preview

CES 2013 predictions lead

The annual glimpse into the future of consumer technology. 2013 in all its glory, glistening white and chrome. Covered, perhaps, with a thin layer of Gorilla Glass. Banks of HDTVs seemingly mounted in the sky like a Matrix fever dream, following you through the packed halls. Hundreds of thousands of bodies pack into a convention center in the desert in an artificial city built for human pleasure. Yes, it’s the Consumer Electronics Show, still the world’s biggest, and it kicks off in just a few days.

The Verge is heading out to Las Vegas in full editorial and video force to bring you the most in-depth coverage of the show, the city, and the culture behind world of tech that you’ll find anywhere. What’s on tap for CES 2013? Read on!

Follow all of our CES coverage right here!

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Phones

Phones

If you thought we’d reached the upper-limit of screen sizes on smartphones, think again
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By Dieter Bohn

Lately, it seems like the presence of smartphones at CES has been inversely proportional to their importance in consumer tech, and so far it looks like 2013 won’t be an exception. The traditional big names in smartphones usually don’t announce big products at CES — Samsung, Motorola, and even RIM aren’t likely to have important new wares to show off. Given that Microsoft is taking a pass on this year’s CES, we’re obviously not expecting much in the way of Windows Phone 8 news — the company usually reserves that for Mobile World Congress. The same usually goes for Nokia and HTC, whose next major phones are more likely to be unveiled in February.

One exception is Sony, which usually attaches a couple of new phones at its huge keynote. We’ve already seen official press photos of the Xperia Z and Xperia ZL already. The Xperia Z, codenamed “Yuga” is expected to be Sony’s entrant in the big-screened phone game, with a rumored 5-inch 1080p display, 2GB of RAM, LTE, and the same quad-core Qualcomm processor found in other recent flagship phones.

Other, lesser-known companies may try to fill the smartphone void at CES as well. Huawei apparently has a monster 6.1-inch Android phone on tap, and its fellow Chinese manufacturer ZTE should unveil the super-thin Grand S, which also will feature a 5-inch 1080p display. Basically, if you thought we’d reached the upper limit of screen sizes on smartphones, think again: companies are going to continue to push the envelope as much as possible until consumers revolt. Given the relative success of Samsung’s Galaxy Note II, it’s hard to say when that will be.

One interesting note: Qualcomm is taking Microsoft’s old booth, and CEO Paul Jacobs is also taking Microsoft’s traditional slot as the keynote speaker. It’s possible that the company could have something new to talk about, but the planned “Born Mobile” theme is generic enough to lead us to think Qualcomm won’t have groundbreaking news. Qualcomm will likely tout its significant lead in mobile processors, much to Intel’s chagrin. That company’s attempt at making a splash last year’s CES registered as barely a ripple, and Intel’s chances aren’t much better at this year’s show.

There’s always a chance that something surprising could emerge, too — and it might come from a surprising place. There are a lot of upstart mobile operating systems, from Ubuntu to Firefox OS to Sailfish to Tizen. With the biggest players in mobile staying out of CES, it just might be the perfect place for these new players to finally get a word in edgewise.

Tablets

Tablets

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By David Pierce

Even without an official presence at the show, Microsoft could be the talk of CES 2013

Last year’s CES was awfully tablet-centric. Maybe even too tablet-centric — it felt like every company on the planet decided that 2012 was the year it would become a tablet manufacturer, and the deluge of terrible Android slates was nothing short of remarkable. But in the twelve months since last year’s CES we’ve finally seen a series of good, inexpensive Android tablets like the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD, while the iPad and iPad mini have only helped Apple maintain its lead in the space. That means that this year, even though we’re certain to see a preponderance of flimsy 10-inch devices running outdated Android software, the focus has shifted a bit.

2013 is all about Windows tablets — they’ll be called convertibles, slates, and hybrids, but they’re fundamentally tablets. Windows 8 is Microsoft’s first genuinely touch-friendly operating system, equally suitable for laptops and tablets, and Windows RT brings the software to tablet hardware that could previously only use Android. The new OSes have a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem at the moment — Microsoft needs more apps to woo buyers, and more users to woo app developers — and the company needs great tablet hardware in order to fix it. Whether that hardware shows up at CES remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: even without an official presence at the show, Microsoft could be the talk of CES 2013.

Cameras

Cameras

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By Vlad Savov

Every year, CES is deluged by a storm of anonymous new cameras and camcorders replacing similarly unremarkable, if slightly less numerically endowed, models introduced mere months prior. Alas, such has become the fate of most imaging equipment these days — a commodity item that’s upgraded in bulk.

Last year’s CES broke with the boilerplate tradition by playing host to the debut of Nikon’s flagship D4 DSLR, but this year’s announcements look like a regression to the norm. The camera-focused Photokina event in Cologne drew a lot of the big new debutants of 2012 back in September, while the upcoming CP Plus in Japan might also be considered a better launch stage for camera makers’ latest and greatest. We may still see some refreshes among mirrorless cameras, with Nikon in particular being rumored to be adding to its range of 1 Series shooters, but on the whole it’s going to be another year of point-and-shoot cameras and dedicated camcorders fading further into obscurity.

In fact, the most exciting imaging news out of Vegas this January could come from the devices that have been systematically obliterating the market for casual cameras: smartphones. 2012 saw Nokia go for the photographic crown with a pair of PureView devices — the 808 and Lumia 900 — that tangibly moved things forward in terms of hardware capabilities, while HTC and Samsung also stepped their game up on the software side of things. The riposte from Sony and others will be an interesting trend to watch throughout 2013, and CES should set the tone for the year to come.

Another year of point-and-shoot cameras and dedicated camcorders fading further into obscurity
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Gaming

Gaming

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By Andrew Webster

CES isn’t the place to go for big gaming announcements — shows like E3 and the Tokyo Game Show fill that void. But that doesn’t mean we won’t see anything game-related next week in Vegas. Accessories can traditionally be found in abundance, and with the recent launch of the Wii U this past November, we don’t anticipate that trend changing this year. Expect to see arcade sticks, controllers, and more — though whether or not any of these companies manage to take advantage of the Wii U’s temporary lack of a second GamePad remains to be seen. With successors to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on the horizon, we expect Sony and Microsoft to be relatively quiet in terms of news, but Sony will likely be discussing mobile gaming in some capacity, so expect some potentially interesting tidbits about the Vita and PlayStation Mobile platform.

Of course, there’s more to mobile gaming than just Sony. Add-ons that turn your tablet or smartphone into a controller or mini arcade cabinet are becoming increasingly popular among accessory makers, and with the success of Ouya on Kickstarter, we may even see some movement in the Android-powered console space. And there’s always the chance that Razer’s Project Fiona gaming tablet, which made a surprise reappearance in an FCC filing last October after being unveiled at CES 2012, will be on display as well.

TVs

TVs

Once everyone tasted that HD money things just got silly. We’ve been crashing from the high for a decade now
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By Nilay Patel

In many ways, CES is just a week-long excuse for the TV industry to tell itself elaborate lies about what people will buy. A couple years ago TV manufacturers added 3D capabilities to every set, and then started crowing that sales of 3D TVs were skyrocketing, even though no one sits at home wearing LCD glasses to watch anything, ever. Last year everyone raced to add fairly terrible smart TV features controlled by dismal remotes to every mainstream TV set, and now they’re all scrambling to release updated smart TVs because the numbers say smart TV sales have gone up. But smart TVs suck and no one uses the apps. And really, the entire industry is betting on the iPad to deliver TV apps instead.

This is a shell game — a dance for the industry to pretend it can somehow find another generational leap that will trigger a wave of mass upgrades like the shift to HDTV. Once everyone tasted that HD money things just got silly. We’ve been crashing from the high for a decade now.

But there are glimmers of hope at CES 2013

But there are glimmers of hope at CES 2013; the beginnings of another round of radical change. A major resolution bump to 4K is on the horizon — that’s just over four times the pixels of your current 1080p TV. This time the hype is real: seeing a 4K picture in person is an amazing experience on par with the leap to HD. But it’s still insanely expensive: this CES will see Sony, Sharp, Samsung, LG and others all showing off new 4K TVs — and they’ll cost tens of thousands of dollars. But while they might be out of reach for now, the push for new content distribution ideas will be on in force: the bump to 4K resolution means that movies and TV shows will now require far more bandwidth.

And those new content distribution ideas will hopefully trigger a new wave of TV products themselves — look for companies like Dish Network, Comcast, DirecTV and others to show off new ways for consumers to get and watch TV on all their devices. We’ll probably also see a third major push behind Google TV, which is arguably the best smart TV platform but so far a failure on the market. And look for a lot of collaboration between the service providers and the manufacturers themselves: the entire industry is trying to get a jump on Apple’s rumored integrated TV product, and CES is the place to do it.

PCs

PCs

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By Sean Hollister

Right now, every computer manufacturer is making bets on the future of the PC. Will it twist? Will it fold? Will it have a detachable tablet screen? Should your phone fit inside? Will you control it with the traditional keyboard and mouse, or will you touch a screen, wave your hands, and bat your eyes? Perhaps most important: will it run Windows, or will things tilt towards a “post-PC” mobile operating system like iOS or Android? It’s hard to say for sure, but it’s a safe bet that we’ll see an explosion of Windows 8 machines now that Microsoft’s recipe is out of the oven.

It’s a safe bet that we’ll see an explosion of Windows 8 machines

At last year’s CES, Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga and the Asus Transformer paved the way for the first wave of fancy new Windows 8 computers, and now it’s time for round two now that the world has actually had a chance to try the new OS. At CES 2013, you can expect to see Windows on a host of exotic new computers as manufacturers try to strike the perfect balance between laptop, desktop, and tablet.

Mind you, it takes longer than a couple of months to design a new computer, so the new designs we’ll see at the show won’t necessarily fix our lingering issues with Windows 8 PC just yet… but manufacturers will have the opportunity to weed out those designs that are headed entirely the wrong direction, and so going into 2013, the overall mix should be more coordinated.

Home and Personal

Home and Personal

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By Chris Ziegler

Home Tech

Once the playground of the wealthy, the dream of the “connected home” is finally starting to materialize for the rest of us. If 2012 was the year that Nest proved regular people could get excited about home automation, 2013 could be the year that we move beyond thermostats and start automating everything around the house. Expect CES 2013 to really play up the inevitable Wi-Fi-ification of common household gear. Products like Philips Hue and Belkin WeMo are just the beginning. Appliances, energy-efficient lighting, electrical outlets, heaters, fans — if it can be networked, it will be. And there’ll be a smartphone app to go along with it.

Personal Tech

Nike’s FuelBand. The FitBit series. Jawbone’s redesigned Up. Consumers are more interested than ever in tracking the minutiae of their daily activities, and big brands are stepping up to the plate with a variety of products. BodyMedia — which made a splash at last year’s CES with a disposable data-collecting body patch — says that it’ll be introducing a new armband at this year’s show, and it certainly won’t be the only one. Considering CES’s proximity to the new year and the looming threat of millions of New Year’s resolutions we’re all desperately trying to keep, the show is the perfect opportunity to roll out fitness-tracking gear.

CES 2013 could also be a coming-out party for Bluetooth Low Energy, the standard heralded as a boon for wearable devices thanks to its power-sipping ways. Citizen, Casio, and MetaWatch have all rolled out BLE-compatible wristwatches that connect to your smartphone, and it’s quite likely that we’ll see others (like the hotly anticipated Pebble) next week.

The dream of the “connected home” is finally starting to materialize for the rest of us
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Wrap-up

Wrap-up

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Even amidst the thousands of people, booths, and gadgets, there’s long been one big Apple-sized hole in the CES landscape. Apple decided years ago to go its own way, and focus on its own events rather than add to the Vegas noise. (And if Apple’s typical January event happens to take some of the attention away from CES, well, we imagine Tim Cook and co. are okay with that.)

We’ll be talking to the people behind the tech, and scouring the show floor for the wildest and craziest tech out there

Apple’s strategy has clearly worked, and its competitors have noticed. Now others are choosing to strike out on their own as well — this will be the first year without the gigantic, bizarrely-lit Microsoft booth, as the company that was once arguably CES’s biggest backer has pulled out of the show after fifteen years of keynotes and high-profile announcements. Other companies will still be present, but in a more limited capacity. We first saw the Lumia 900 in the Playboy Club at last year’s CES, but this year the major mobile launches appear to be slated for Mobile World Congress in February, or CTIA in May. Likewise, many PC manufacturers will likely have less to show off since they launched new products only a few months ago for the Windows 8 launch. Apps and software have always been somewhat marginalized at the show, and big names like Twitter and Facebook are still absent from the exhibitors sheet.

But don’t let any of that dissuade you. CES remains the biggest event of the year in the tech industry, and we expect to see incredible new things (and some not-so-incredible new things) across a huge spectrum of the market. We’re going to get a much better idea of what the future of TVs looks like; we’ll finally figure out if the “smart home” is a real possibility; there will be phones, tablets, and cameras as far as the eye can see; and most of all we’re hoping for a repeat Bieber sighting. Plus, we’ll be talking to the people behind the tech, scouring the show floor for the wildest and craziest tech out there, and finding out what the locals think about the teeming masses at the show.

So head over to our brand-new CES hub, and stick around for a while. Next week’s going to be wild.

The Verge
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