5 Top Things We're Watching at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show By The Street
Intel, Nvidia, and Amazon's partners are among the companies launching a slew of products covering cars, smartphones, PCs, smart home devices and VR headsets.
More than 175,000 people attended the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last year, and it's a safe bet that a similar number will be there this year. Though Apple, Tesla Motors and a handful of other big consumer tech hardware firms and automakers don't attend the show, many others do, along with numerous smaller hardware firms, startups and chip suppliers.
In addition to showing off cutting-edge products at several massive exhibit floors from Thursday to Sunday, many big industry players unveil new offerings at launch events, often during the two Media Days that precede the official start of CES. This year, the list of companies that have announced or are expected to announce new products includes Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) , LG, Sony (NYSE:SNE) , Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) , ZTE, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) , AMD (NASDAQ:AMD) , Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) , Lenovo and Xiaomi.
TheStreet's Eric Jhonsa is attending CES all this week. He'll be covering news events, reporting from exhibit floors, speaking with industry executives and hoping to keep his coffee intake at reasonable levels. Check out all of our CES 2017 coverage here.
Here's a look at the top five technologies and product reveals expected to take the spotlight as CES unfolds:
1. Automotive Technology
Without a doubt, automakers and their suppliers will command a lot of attention, as the proliferation of autonomous driving technologies, in-car connectivity solutions and electric vehicles lead consumers to rethink what a car is. Ford (NYSE:F) , Nissan, Toyota (NYSE:TM) , Honda (NYSE:HMC) Volkswagen and a slew of other auto giants will be present, as will major suppliers such as Visteon, Bosch, Harman, NXP Semiconductor (NASDAQ:NXPI) and Nvidia.
Already, Ford has unveiled a new self-driving test car -- it's a modified Ford Fusion hybrid -- said to have more processing power, better LiDAR sensors and improved software relative to its predecessor. And Alphabet/Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has teamed with self-driving car partner Fiat Chrysler (NYSE:FCAU) to deliver an 8.4-inch, Android-powered, concept infotainment system. Also: Intel, which is hungry to grow its automotive chip sales, just announced it's taking a 15% stake in top automotive mapping supplier Here (formerly a Nokia unit).
Though Apple, Google and (most likely) Samsung won't be revealing any new flagship phones at CES, several notable launches are likely. ZTE is expected to reveal the Blade V8, a new mid-range phone with dual cameras, and LG is expected to show off five new devices, including an update to its mid-range Stylo phablet line. And Samsung will probably be making a mobile announcement or two at its Wednesday press event.
Xiaomi which needs to grow its international sales to offset slumping sales in China, is expected to announce a global version of its Mi Mix phablet, which has a 6.4-inch display and almost no bezels on its sides. Asus is announcing a phone supporting Google's Tango augmented reality/3D mapping platform. And TCL, BlackBerry's (BBRY) Chinese phone design/manufacturing partner, is due to reveal the Mercury, a BlackBerry-branded device with a physical keyboard.
On the mobile processor front, details have leaked (ahead of a Tuesday Qualcomm event) about Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835, a next-gen flagship processor that sports an integrated X16 modem (1 Gbps peak download speeds). The 835 also relies on a 10-nanometer Samsung manufacturing process that yields better performance and power efficiency than the 14-nanometer process used by its predecessor, the Snapdragon 820, and its 8-core app processor will reportedly provide a 20% performance gain for several demanding tasks.
Expect the 835 to go into some of Samsung's Galaxy S8 models -- Samsung Exynos processors will likely go into the rest -- as well as many other high-end 2017 Android phones.
Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), whose Echo speakers have become a surprise hit, will be present at CES, and it looks like the company is intent on showing how the hardware and developer ecosystem behind the Alexa voice assistant powering the Echo line is rapidly growing. Lenovo has unveiled Alexa-powered smart home devices featuring Intel Celeron processors, and Whirlpool plans to embed Alexa support within various "smart appliances."
LG, for its part, will reportedly show off an Echo rival known as the Hub Robot. Meanwhile, expect many electronics makers and startups to show off devices that integrate with Alexa, the Google Home speaker and/or Apple's HomeKit platform.
As is the norm for CES, expect plenty of new TV sets to be revealed, but their improvements will be more incremental than revolutionary. OLED TVs, which (for a price) deliver unmatched image quality and thinness, will garner attention, as will new sets powered by Google's Android TV. And on Tuesday, Amazon announced it's teaming with Chinese TV maker Tongfang -- it owns the Westinghouse, Seiki and Element Electronics brands -- to develop cheap 4K sets featuring its Fire TV platform.
Following a 2016 in which VR headsets saw some uptake but didn't exactly fly off the shelves, expect CES VR hype to be more measured than it was a year ago. Look for headset makers such as Sony, Samsung and HTC to highlight the expanding ecosystems for their VR headsets, and the new consumer and business applications third-party developers have enabled.
Also expect inexpensive headsets based on Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows VR platform -- Lenovo just announced one -- as well as from startups looking to address the promising Chinese market. And count on Intel, Nvidia, AMD and Qualcomm to each talk up the ability of their latest processors to deliver high-quality VR experiences (though "high-quality" may literally be in the eye of the beholder).
Much like TV makers, one can count on PC makers to reveal sleek new hardware at CES that's incrementally thinner, lighter and/or more powerful than what preceded it. Dell, HP Inc. (NYSE:HPQ) , Asus and Lenovo have already done just that. Much of the attention is centered on two of the strongest parts of a still-pressured PC market: Gaming PCs, and thin-and-light laptops that can morph into tablets (the proverbial "2-in-1s").
But the biggest CES PC announcements are arguably coming from chip suppliers. Intel has fleshed out its Kaby Lake CPU line, adding powerful desktop and high-end laptop chips to complement previously-announced, low-power notebook chips. AMD is expected to detail its Vega GPU architecture -- some slides have already leaked -- which stands to provide the high-end GPU market with real competition for the first time in years.
Nvidia, for its part, has revealed a pair of mid-range laptop GPUs and is expected to show off the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, a new high-end desktop chip that aims to keep AMD at bay. The 1080 Ti will likely sit between the 1080 and the flagship Titan X in Nvidia's high-end lineup.
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