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@CES: Connectivity, mobility rule

Mon, 01/31/2011 - 7:40pm
Craig Kuhl, Contributing Editor

The thing tying everything together will be video.

The most recent edition of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) came loaded with a pair of revelations portending the imminent end of The Hegemony Of The Set-Top.

There was Sony's announcement that its Bravia HDTVs will enable direct access to Time Warner Cable VOD. Another was that Samsung is working with Comcast and TWC on sending live Internet streams to broadband-connected TVs and mobile devices. And Comcast said it will stream live TV directly to iPads.

Those latter two items also fit into one of the dominant themes of CES: mobility. There was no shortage of new smartphones and laptops, and Verizon orchestrated a blizzard of announcements surrounding the switch-on of its LTE network.

Out of all of that, Motorola’s unveiling of its Atrix was especially notable; it’s a phone as powerful as many netbooks. In fact, coupled with its docking station, that’s exactly what it becomes. The industry will be hard-pressed to converge communications and computing much more than that.

And talk of connected TVs and mobile devices dominated CES panel sessions.

"Connected TVs continue to trend up. Fifty percent of TV product lines are connected, and enhancing broadcast TV and interactive advertising with connectivity is key, with the enhancements being done through the TV," said Ron Jacoby, senior director and chief architect for connected TV at Yahoo.

The way products like the iPad and the Atrix are being used opened the question of what constitutes TV now?

"We learned TV isn't TV anymore. It's much bigger. It's not one device, but all the screens for the experience. Connectivity is actually happening," said Brian David Johnson, consumer experience architect for Intel.

What's also happening, said Edgar Villalpando, senior vice president of marketing at ActiveVideo, is cloud-based TV sets. "It's like an iPad and TV. We took the brains out of the set-top box and put it into the cloud. We made the screen dumber, but the experience is smarter."

The convergence of compute power with mobile communications is creating new categories of use, if not new categories of products.

"Super phones and tablets are allowing computing because of great connectivity. They're not computer replacements, they're augmenting computers," said Mike Rayfield, panelist and general manager of the mobile business unit for Nvidia.

Knowing that this sort of convergence is beginning to happen doesn’t mean it’s all a done deal.

"There are tremendous things happening, and many depend on ubiquitous connectivity and emerging devices. It will take a combination of networks, carriers and devices, and we're already starting to see devices and applications taking off," said Mel Coker, panelist and vice president of product development, operations and emerging devices for AT&T.

The thing tying everything together will be video.

“Everything and everyone will be connected, and video has always been at the heart. It will be the next voice and needs to be brought together in an architectural play,” said John Chambers, chairman and CEO of Cisco.

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