The Consumer Electronics Show is upon us, giving a glimpse into the near-future of tech. Companies from around the globe descend on Las Vegas this week to debut their latest and greatest creations. So what trends can we expect to see out of the world's biggest tech show (and soon into our living rooms)?
This is the High 5: Tech Trends at CES 2011.
5. Internet-Connected TVs
It was all about 3-D TVs last year but consumers have proven that they aren't ready to buy into the technology.
So TV makers are refocusing on what consumers are really hungry for ... more content. The current darling of the tech space is Netflix.
Between Roku, Boxee Box and Apple TV, movie watchers can now stream movies right to their TVs.
So long DVD! And manufacturers such as Samsung, Vizio and Panasonic are putting apps on the televisions themselves. Stream videos from YouTube, audio from Pandora, browse your photo gallery and chat with friends on Facebook or Twitter.
Intel is now even creating chips, or "brains," for TVs, a synthesis of hardware and software that combines connectivity and connection to the Internet.
And as the connectivity gets built into the set itself, we will eventually see the death of those third-party boxes, Roku, Boxee and Apple TV.
4. iPhone Hardware Combined With Apps
When the iPod and iPhone first came out, we saw a lot of products to dock your device.
But the hardware was solely about audio and video.
With the revolution of apps, however, we're now seeing a trend that is taking the hardware one step further and working in conjunction with these applications.
It's no longer just about creating speakers, it's about creating anything you can imagine.
If there's an app for that, manufacturers can create a complimentary peripheral, increasing the power of these Apple devices.
They can transform into anything from a blood-pressure monitor to a meat thermometer.
Such a trend might not get a lot of attention at this CES, but with its lifestyle implications, this is an important step that will truly affect consumers.
3. Cars That Connect With Your Phone
People have stopped buying their cars based on what's under the hood.
You either trust the brand or you don't.
Instead, we're more interested in what the car can do for us.
Our phones are a vital part of our lives; we want full integration, including when we're behind the wheel.
The trend out of CES is app functionality for your automobile.
Big announcements from Toyota, Audi and Ford are expected this week about how their cars will connect with your cell phones.
So buckle up all you David Hasselhoff wannabes, your Fiesta is transforming into KITT.
CES is the show where manufacturers of hardware are debuting new products, many of them just prototypes that will evolve based on interest during the year.
Amazingly cool products have debuted here, everything from the VCR to 3-D TVs.
And while we sense things that are up and coming, what also happens is you have a hotrod that comes up the on-ramp from out of nowhere. Sometimes it's sexy, and sometimes it's really mundane.
What could the wild card be this year? Verizon's CEO is giving the keynote address Thursday.
Could a Verizon-iPhone announcement be on the menu?
Will Microsoft Kinnect change the way we interface with our computers, creating a "Minority Report"-like world?
Anything can happen in Vegas, and CES is like a slot machine.
You know you're generally going to get a little payout, get what you expect. Every once in a while there's a huge unexpected jackpot.
A CES fun fact: Back in the early 2000s, Microsoft showed off a tablet that was very much like the iPad.
But somehow, consumers weren't ready for that idea. It was almost before its time.
The reason the iPad is such a success is because it came in a sequence.
First the iPod, then the iPhone, then the iPad. It wasn't a foreign body, it was a succession from a series of successful products.
It took that time for consumers to open themselves up to the idea. So now the time is right for all these other tablets.
They're trying to differentiate themselves through form factor and features such as size, architecture, cameras, USB ports, keyboards and functionality.
Who knows whether the iPad-killer is lurking in the sea of tablets, tablets, tablets.