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Monday, January 10, 2011
CES 2011 Wrap Up: Tablets, Web-connected 3-D TVs and 4G Products

CES 2011 just closed its doors in Las Vegas and it was crowded enough compared to the previous couple of years. Gadgets, smart TVs, 4G smartpones and tablets took the center stage at the show.

Let's summarize the highlights of CES 2011.

Tablets everywhere

Apple has been dominating the tablet market for some time now and most companies are trying to take advantage of the emerging market.

Many companies have touted features that the iPad doesn't yet have, such as front- and rear-facing cameras for video chatting and taking high-definition videos and the ability to operate over wireless carriers' new and forthcoming high-speed networks, together known as 4G.

As for software, the upcoming Honeycomb version of Google.'s Android software seemed a popular choice. Many of the tablets unveiled will run Honeycomb, which is more geared toward tablets than current versions of Android. Android is a license-free software.

Lenovo, LG Electronics and Asustek were just a few of the companies showing off Android tablets at CES. Dell and Toshiba are offering Android- tablets based on Nvidia's dual-core Tegra 2 chips. Motorola Mobility's Xoom tablet powered by Honeycomb software, also took the coveted title of best gadget at CES. A few tablets shown at the show will run the Microsoft's Windows 7 PC software, though. Asus' Eee EP121 from runs Windows 7 software and features a 12-inch touchscreen. Lenovo's hybrid tablet-laptop, the IdeaPad U1, also runs Windows 7 when serving as a U1 laptop and Android when the detachable screen is removed to work as a tablet, the LePad.

And the business-focused 4G PlayBook, which comes from BlackBerry maker Research In Motion runs RIM's own software.

HP also among the few companies that will offer tablets running on webOS software, which the company acquired when it bought Palm last year.

Sony is also hoping to become the world's second-largest vendor of tablet devices by 2012, although the company did not showcase any tablet model at CEs 2011.

3-D TVs

3-D TVs were the big thing at last year's CES 2010 show. This year LG, Sony, Samsung and Vizio are trying to convince consumers that their offerings are more affordable, consumer-friendly and less bulky, while they are offering a complete web-connected experience.

LG Electronics is trying a different take on 3-D, with light, inexpensive glasses of the kind used in movie theaters.

Vizio already sells one such set, and Samsung said it was working on similar technology. In LG's and Vizio's version of the technology, the screen resolution is halved, but not everyone will notice. The flickering effect sometimes produced by the battery-powered glasses is missing, and the lighter glasses also don't darken the image as much.

Of course, Samsung continues to promote its high-end active 3-D technology offering many new 3D TV models.

Toshiba will also begin selling large-screen glasses-free 3D television sets wordlwide in fiscal 2011.

All the new televisions feature high-definition or 3D screens and Internet connectivity for getting digital content from the Web. The web-accessed content will include sports, movie as well as standard television content. It will be available through the TV without the need for cable, satellite, or the game consoles that many households now resort to for streaming video.

Sony and Samsung announced content deals with Time Warner Cable at CES last week and Samsung with the largest U.S. cable company, Comcast Corp.

Samsung, LG and Panasonic are alsoset to offer third-party applications on their televisions, similar to those consumers use on phones and tablets.

The ease of use will be key to promoting take-up. Sony offers a keyboard interface for its Google TV, but smartphones and tablets are hot contenders to become the new, and hopefully more intuitive, TV remote.

Microsoft also showed how TVs could be controlled with an LG Windows smartphone, by swiping and tilting the device to control what is shown on the big screen. Together with Toshiba, the company also showed off hand-signal and voice-command systems.

In addition, Blu-ray players from some makers are also beginning to add "smart" features, or there are separate accessories from Apple and Logitech.

Windows running on ARM Chips

At CES the computers ran Windows 7 but instead of CPUs from Intel or AMD, they computers were running on chips based on designs from ARM Holdings PLC. That could mean laptops and tablets with longer battery lives. Even Microsoft announced that its next operating system, possibly the Windows 8, will be optimized to run on ARM chips. The OS will be seen in portable devices and tablets and will offer increased battery life. Microsoft didn't say when an ARM-based version of Windows might be available, but indicated that it's at least a year away.

Of course, notebooks running on Intel's new Sandybridge and AMD's Fusion chips, which pack a CPU and GPU core into a single chip, were also available at the show.

Verizon's first consumer 4G devices

Verizon Wireless lit up its 4G network in December, with limited coverage but high data speeds. The network uses a new spectrum and is designed from the ground up to carry data, resulting in connections that in many cases beat the speed of DSL lines and cable modems. Verizon expects download speeds to average 5 to 12 megabits per second.

For now, only plug-in laptop modems can take advantage of it, but at the show, Verizon showed off smart phones from Motorola, LG, HTC and Samsung set to arrive in the first half of year, along with two tablets.

Verizon will also give a second press conference on Tuesday in New York, where it is believed that the company will announce that it will start selling Apple 's iPhone, now available in the U.S. exclusively through rival AT&T Inc.

Speaking of AT&T, the company os also building its own 4G network, and plans to have it up and running this summer. In the meantime, it it's starting to call its 3G network "4G."

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