A flood of news is par for the course at CES (VentureBeat will be covering the event extensively, as we’re sending more writers than ever before), but every year a few major themes emerge that will resonate for the rest of the year. While the value of CES has arguably declined over the past decade — with companies like Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft announcing plenty of products at their own press events throughout the year — the show still provides us an interesting glimpse of what lies ahead. This year’s trade show is poised to be one of the biggest in years, as the Consumer Electronics Association believes it will draw 149,000 attendees to more than 2,700 exhibitors occupying more than 1.8 million square feet of exhibit space.
Here are our predictions for the CES trends that will make a profound impact on the technology world, both for businesses and consumers, in 2012.
Verizon Wireless’s LTE 4G network was all the rage at last year’s CES, having launched just a month prior, and it marked the arrival of cellular networks that could finally achieve speeds comparable to home broadband connections. While Verizon has had its run of the LTE field for the past year, this year it’ll finally have some competition from AT&T and Sprint.
At CES, AT&T will be showing off its first run of LTE 4G phones, following the launch of its network back in September. Leading the pack for AT&T will be the Nokia Ace, AKA the Lumia 900, which we think could turn the tide for Windows Phone. AT&T certainly has a lot of catching up to do, and we suspect that the carrier will be making some major announcements regarding aggressive expansion of its network.
Sprint, meanwhile, has said that it will have a major roll out of its LTE network in the middle of 2012, which will be followed by the arrival of LTE phones later in the year. The company was the first to launch a 4G network years ago, but it ran the slower WiMax standard. Now that LTE has proven to be faster and easier to deploy, Sprint has to jump ship from WiMax. We expect Sprint to divulge many more details about its LTE plans at CES.
That leaves T-Mobile, which for the past year has been embroiled in a potential takeover by AT&T. Now that that’s not happening, the carrier will likely move forward with plans to expand its HSPA+ 4G network, which at this point has already reached 42 megabit speeds in nearly 100 cities.
Last summer’s MacBook Air update proved that super thin ultraportables could finally go toe-to-toe with bulkier laptops. And not surprisingly, PC makers have since tried to replicate the Air’s success with ultrabooks, a term for the ultraportable machines coined by Intel. We’ve already seen some ultrabooks announced by Asus, Acer, HP and Toshiba, but at CES there will be between 30 and 50 new models announced.