The 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a wrap. Tech’s largest trade show tends to kick off the year with a slew of new gadgets and provides a first glimpse into what will be hot in tech for the rest of the year. This year’s CES was no different.
We spent nearly a week talking with tech leaders, testing out products, visiting booths and attending press conferences in order to find out what devices, emerging trends and technologies to watch in 2011. A few trends clearly stood out at this year’s show.
From tablets to the influence of a certain company in Cupertino, here are five big consumer technology trends to watch.
1. Dual-Core Smartphones
This year will be the year smartphones take a major leap in power and functionality. More and more phones will come packed with HD screens, 4G connectivity, increased RAM and dual-core processors. The latter is especially important, because users are demanding more and more multitasking capabilities in their handheld devices.
Right now, the only dual-core devices on the market run Android, but you can expect Apple and the rest to launch their own dual-core phones later this year.
2. Android or Bust
CES was once again dominated by Google’s Android OS. The best devices at the show all ran on the Android platform. The biggest draw, the Motorola Xoom tablet, also showed off the upcoming Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” interface, made specifically for tablets.
Why have Samsung, Motorola, LG and many other electronics companies put their money on Google? Simple: It’s the only viable alternative to Apple, who would love to do nothing more than crush Android and CES. It’s an alliance of necessity if anybody is to gain traction against Apple’s growing power and profits.
3. Seeking the iPad Challenger
Thanks to the iPad, 2011 will be known as “The Year of the Tablet.” Microsoft, Samsung, Motorola, BlackBerry and more showed off their tablet devices at CES. The Samsung Sliding PC 7 is a Windows 7 tablet with a nice slide-out keyboard, while Toshiba showed off a yet-to-be-named 10.1-inch Android tablet. Oh, and let’s not forget about The BlackBerry PlayBook.
The winner of the CES tablet wars, though, was clearly the Motorola Xoom. With a 1GHz Tegra 2 dual-core processor, 10.1-inch screen, 1280×800 resolution, 4G connectivity, 32GB of on board memory and the Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” OS, the Xoom clearly outclassed its competition.
Does that make the Xoom a viable iPad competitor? We’ll have to wait and see how many of these devices people snatch up when March rolls around, but for now, it has the momentum, power and potential to give Apple a run for its money.
4. TVs Get Smart, But Will Consumers Care?
Sony, Samsung, Sharp and LG revealed new TVs this year, and every single one can connect to the web and run apps.
We saw a lot of connected TVs last year, but now they’re essentially standard. Almost every new TV you see from now on will be able to browse the web, connect to Netflix and more. And these TV manufacturers are even signing deals to bring content directly to the device, bypassing cable. Samsung has a deal with CBS, while Sony has penned one with Time Warner.
5. Apple Casts a Giant Shadow
One of the most talked about companies at CES wasn’t even there. Instead, it worked behind the scenes to undermine the show and steal the spotlight. And boy, did it succeed.
I am talking about none other than Apple, the world’s second most valuable company. Apple sees Android, which CES has embraced, as a threat and has worked every year to suck the oxygen from the room. Last year, Apple took over the show with fervent speculation about the iPad. This year, Apple did it twice with the the launch of the Mac App Store and the announcement of a press conference to reveal the Verizon iPhone.
It’s shocking that one company can be so powerful and influential that it can undermine technology’s largest trade show, but that’s exactly what Apple has been able to accomplish year after year. The game has become Apple vs. CES and iOS vs. Android.
By Ben Parr, Mashable’s Co-Editor