Top Tech Trends: What Will 2011 Bring?

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The holidays may be over, but for tech geeks and gadget-lovers, the fun is just beginning.

The biggest technology trade show in the world, the Consumer Electronics Show, kicks off later this week, and buzz about the year's top tech trends is already well under way.

Hundreds of companies -- from brand name Apple and Google to virtual unknowns looking to make their mark -- will descend on Las Vegas for the annual event. Although many of their products may still be under wraps, industry insiders say they can already detect the major trends of the show -- and of 2011 -- shaping up. spoke to a few analysts about what to expect in 2011. Here's what they had to say.


"If there's one device or one product category that we're likely to see an explosion of at CES, it's tablets," said Ross Rubin, an analyst for NPD Group and an columnist.

Apple's iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab hit the market this year, but in 2011 several other companies hope to give them a run for their money.

In December, Motorola released a teaser video of its Honeycomb Android-based tablet that it will unveil at CES. Honeycomb is the name of Google's next generation Android operating system, and analysts expect many of the new tablets to run on that system.

Microsoft is also expected to take its tablet efforts to the next step, Rubin said.

Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, said for Research in Motion (which makes the BlackBerry), CES will be a make-it-or-break-it moment.

Earlier in 2010, the company announced its upcoming tablet, the PlayBook, which is expected to be at CES. RIM, which saw its smartphone dominance eroded by Apple's iPhone and Android phones, is hoping the 7-inch tablet will give the company a much-needed boost.

"All eyes will be on them to see if they can pull the rabbit out of the hat," Enderle said.

And NPD's Rubin said that Apple could be getting ready to unveil a new version of the iPad sometime in January. It likely wouldn't happen at CES, but it was one year ago that Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage to introduce the company's "revolutionary" device.

The Rise of the 'Superphone'

First, there was the cell phone, then the smartphone and now the "superphone."

It's the next generation of the smartphone, and Enderle said it would make its first appearance at CES this year.

The new phone category can run on a 4G network, which is the next-generation wireless network. Verizon, for example, has said that its 4G LTE network, which launched in December 2010 in 38 cities, can be up to 10 times faster than its 3G network.

The superphones will also be dual-core phones with two processors, which means multi-tasking will be taken to a new level, Enderle said. LG has already said that its new superphone, the Optimus 2X, which it launched in December and will display at CES, lets users multitask with no screen lag. For example, you could play a game and listen to music without any delays in either function.

"It's quite a bit more capable than the last generation of smartphones, and CES should be the first time we start seeing some of these," he said.

Smart/Connected TVs

"Everybody at CES is going to show a TV set of some sort with a fairly sophisticated connectivity to the outside world -- in other words, Internet televisions," said Greg Harper, president of HarperVision, a technology consulting firm.

Samsung, LG and Sony have already showcased products that let users stream content from the Internet to their TV sets, but Harper said those are just the beginning.

"These are all basically baby steps in what's going to become a major effort," he said.

As people's media habits change, analysts say TV manufacturers are looking for ways to enhance their revenue streams.

Set-top boxes such as the Boxee Box, Roku, Apple TV and Google TV also make it easy to get Web-based content on to a TV screen. Competition among those smart TV devices will also heat up in 2011.

Google TV was widely expected to be showcased at CES, but the company announced in December that it would sit this show out. Speculation is that Google will unveil it later in 2011.

An Automotive Extravaganza

Every year, a big part of the show is devoted to automotive technology, and analysts expect even more car manufacturers to show off their work this year.

Enderle said a large variety of carmakers -- -- Audi, Ford and Hyundai to name a few -- plan to tout developments at CES 2011.

"[There's] a big fight now between the car vendors at CES for who has the most up-to-date in-car entertainment," he said. "Cars are starting to look an awful lot like more expensive consumer electronics toys."

Touch screens, brighter colors, better media, better wireless integration are among the features companies are expected to compete on.

Harper said Bluetooth connectivity for cars, lane-detection warnings and backup external cameras are on the rise. Another trend to watch is the Minority Report-style heads-up display, which provides information about the road ahead, the car's speed and more on the windshield in front of you.

Whatever Happened to 3-D

It's been the buzz word on the tip of every tongue at CES for the past two years. But in 2010, when the first 3-D TVs hit the market, consumers gave them an underwhelming reception.

Still, Enderle said, 3-D would make a run for it at CES this year, although the focus will be on content, not products.

"They didn't sell particularly well because they didn't have anything to show on it," he said. "This is the show we're really supposed to see the big wave of 3-D content."

He said the chatter is around new 3-D TV shows (including one cable show), the migration of movies to 3-D and products that convert 2-D programming to 3-D.

The glasses, a big sticking point for consumers, will also see a price reduction. The active shutter 3-D glasses have been running about $100-150, but Enderle said CES will showcase some generic glasses that cost $30-40.

"[This] I think will help a little bit with regard to adoption," he said. "You wrap it with content, you get glasses that more people can afford and are a lot less worried about giving to their children. That's a huge difference."