CES 2011: Welcome to the Year of Tablets and Digital Living Rooms

Expect the Tablet Market to Flourish Along With Connected TVs and Kinect

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Matthew Szymczyk
Matthew Szymczyk
CES (Consumer Electronics Show) 2011 is almost upon us and like all gadget-obsessed technorati, half the excitement of an upcoming CES is trying to guess what new innovations will be unveiled to the public. CES 2010 appeared to be the year of 3-D televisions (fueled by the success of "Avatar" and other popular 3-D films) but adoption by consumers has been lukewarm at best. As Financial Times reports, price and need for 3-D glasses has made many consumers hesitant to purchase last year's next big thing.

So with CES 2011 just hours away, what can marketers start preparing for? My guess: tablets and connected TV sets.

The iPad has been a runaway hit for Apple and helped create a new electronics segment sitting squarely in between laptops and netbooks. With Samsung also jumping into the tablet market with the Galaxy Tab, anticipation is high for other Windows 7-, Android- and Linux-based tablets from the likes of Dell, HP and others. So though we can expect tablets to soon be their own category, what does this mean for marketers? For one, it will continue to provide a fragmented market when it comes to campaign development. Apple refuses to support Flash, while Google (with their Android operation system) has been a huge supporter -- even going so far as to integrate Flash into the Chrome browser. Then you also have the app vs. mobile web issue to take into account, which leads to greater fragmentation and cost to a marketer.

In addition, though the tablet market is technically more akin to the smartphone than the laptop, there will be mobile marketing-based opportunities for marketers targeting the "always on the grid" mobile consumer. Augmented Reality is one area that can benefit from the larger display screen and processing power of a tablet. LBS will also likely mature to provide more beneficial services for consumers outside of becoming a mayor of a restaurant.

And finally, Skype has already stole some pre-CES thunder by releasing its mobile video chat application for the iOS -- iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and the iPad. Though Apple made an initial splash with its FaceTime mobile video chat app, it's hard to see Apple, or anybody for that matter, denting the Skype armor considering the market share Skype has already amassed. And this market share is interoperable and across mobile, web and even the digital living room via connected TV sets. Skype, like it or not, will become synonymous with video chat just as Google was synonymous with search.

Connected TVs
The battle for the digital living room has been ongoing for a while and it's now finally made it to the mainstream. This year it appears that connected sets and peripherals (i.e. set-top boxes) will be the big bet this year from OEM's. With more than 200 apps in their store and 1 million app downloads, Samsung has both taken a leadership position in this space and helped validate the market. Though Google has also thrown its hat into the ring with its own Logitech-based set top box and Sony-based TV, they also have had a few problems to date. ReelSEO has a good rundown here. With Apple also selling 1 million units of their Apple TV in 2010 alone, it does appear that the consumer is finally ready for internet connectivity in the living room.

What again does this mean for the marketer? For starters, there is a shift happening from the desktop PC to the connected TV for consumers. The connected-TV environment will not only increase the expectation for interactivity with content but usher out the "passive" viewing experience. If you ever watch ESPN "SportsCenter" and notice the interactivity both on the left and bottom of the screen, this will likely be the future of how we view content in this connected format. Apps will allow for even more interactivity and contextual integration fundamentally changing how marketers will need to interact with viewers.

Though there are likely to be other cool gadgets on display, there's one other technology that I hope will make an appearance -- Kinect. Microsoft's motion gaming device has been a blockbuster so far with 5 million units sold over the last few months. Though this has created an evolution in gaming, it's providing a revolution in how people interact with digital information via the Natural User Interface (NUI). Just as consumers were getting used to touchscreen displays, we now have another shift to motion-based interaction and gestural control. If you have the time, it's worth checking out the Kinect Hacks site to see how "hackers" are using the Kinect technology to create mind-blowing examples of everything from Predator type "cloaking" to the Minority Report navigation system.

Matthew Szymczyk is CEO of Zugara, an interactive marketing agency based in Los Angeles. Zugara is a member of the AR Consortium and oversees the largest AR community on Facebook. He tweets at @kobrakai.
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