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10 Things I genuinely want to see at CES 2012

I usually come into the Consumer Electronics Show every year expecting a few things, being disappointed by the lack of a few things, and being surprised by a few things I didn’t expect. Here’s the list of what I’m hoping to see this year.

As these things happen or fail to happen at CES 2012, I’ll chalk them up as victories or defeats, and you’ll hopefully get an overall feeling for the amount of heartburn I’ll have when I head back here to the East Coast at the end of the week.

1. Ultrabooks that actually do something other than just be skinny

Ultrabooks are the PC form factor that Intel is pushing as a replacement for netbooks and the main growth segment for notebook computers. Unfortunately, the ones we’ve seen so far that fall under this moniker have all been pretty similar…13.3 inch screens, weight under 3 pounds, RAM up to 4 GB, SSD storage up to 256 GB. We have yet to see any unique spins on this category of devices…no touchscreens, no major customizability, no dramatic leaps in battery life. I was enamored with these thin and light notebooks three years ago, now I just want to see something different…a Windows 8-optimized machine maybe?

2. Android Running on non-ARM systems

We know Android 4.0 (aka Ice Cream Sandwich) has been rebuilt for the MIPS architecture and that it’s coming to x86 as well, but we have yet to see the practical advantages these different builds offer. Maybe they offer better battery life or better parallel processing, I’d like to witness the difference first hand.

3. An end to this goddamned 3D nonsense

For the last three years I’ve had to hear about how 3D displays and cameras and related technologies are going to take over. I tried to give it a fair chance, but I’m done talking about it, looking at it, and thinking about it. As I said back in July, adoption of new TV technology is hair-rippingly slow, and thirteen years into the existence of ATSC HDTV in the US, 40.2 million people are still using SD sets. Furthermore, Smartphone adoption is much faster, but a 4″ 3D display is insultingly oxymoronic in that context, and the examples we’ve seen of 3D phones have been novel for a few minutes at best.

4. Energy efficiency as a primary focus

It’s hard to make a flashy show of battery life. It’s much easier for a company to show how their screens are bigger and brighter, how their graphical performance is better and how their download speeds are faster. Efficient energy consumption is decidedly un-showy, so it is often presented as a feature for new consumer devices rather than the main thrust, and something we have been aching for for years.

5. More M2M, More “Internet of Things”

For the last four years at CES, I’ve met with Ericsson about their progress toward their goal of connecting 50 billion devices by 2020. Last year, we talked about connecting non-PC machines for maintenance, inventory control, and user personalization. This year, I’m going to be looking for formerly discrete machines that are getting connected.

6. More Natural User Interfaces

Witnessing the popularity of Microsoft’s Kinect and Apple/Nuance Labs’ Siri gives me a lot of hope for the adoption of natural user interfaces that will eventually supplant the touchscreen. I have to be completely honest, I have always harbored a silent disdain for touchscreens; they utilize touch, but provide you with almost no sensory feedback in that area, they’re almost one hundred percent visual. But seeing what Researchers have been able to do in the last three years with only consumer hardware and custom software has me excited for NUI-capable PCs.

7. New Chromebooks? Or was that just a 2011 thing?

Google launched its Chrome OS CR-48 pilot program in the last month of 2010, and launched the first full-fledged Chromebooks six months later. But in the six months since they launched, we’ve seen nothing about any other manufacturers besides Acer and Samsung trying the new OS/device class.

8. Companies using WIMM’s wearable Android platform

This Summer, WIMM Labs showed me the first working prototypes of their 1″ Android module that could be worn as a watch, embedded into clothing, used as a bike computer, or really whatever an interested company could imagine. The WIMM One developer preview was released in November, and it shouldn’t be long before we see products based upon their design. I’ll be looking for it.

9. Nvidia Tegra 3

Despite the controversial locked bootloader on the Asus EeePad Transformer Prime, it is a highly compelling tablet simply because it is the first to use Nvidia’s quad-core (actually a quint-core) Tegra 3 chipset. This makes mobile tablets more powerful on paper than the entire gamut of netbooks, and indeed a few traditional notebooks.

10. A decent attempt at a ‘Smart TV’ Platform

There have been so many attempts at this, and none of them have really stuck. This could be related to my complaint in #3 on this list. But every year I go to CES, I end up talking to several major companies working at bringing apps, browser, search, content “slinging,” “flinging,” “multicasting,” or other CPU-enabled powers to the television screen. Not one of them has yet caught on in six years. I sincerely hope somebody changes that trend this year.

Photo: Ana-Maria Tanasescu/Shutterstock

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