Ultra HD, OLED, smarter smartphones and apps to dominate CES

Digital Retailer spoke with Shawn DuBravac, chief economist of CES organiser The Consumer Electronics Association, about what to expect from the 2013 International CES.

What themes do you see permeating the conference?

There are going to be a variety of different themes playing out, whether it’s in the home, in the vehicle or on-the-go. If you were step back to 1967 to the first International CES, the home, vehicle and on-the-go were isolated use-case scenarios: the home was the home, the vehicle was the vehicle and mobile didn’t really exist. That’s changing and a lot of those lines are blurring – what’s happening on a mobile is happening in the home and it’s happening in the vehicle.

What are your thoughts on the TV category?

Within TVs I see a couple of trends playing out. One is a move and a continued emphasis and promotion around Ultra High Definition. We’ve had a couple of manufacturers start to ship their Ultra HD sets: Sony is shipping and LG is shipping. They’re amazing TVs to see up close – 84 inches, four times the resolution of a traditional HD set – and I think one of the things to look for is how that storyline will unfold at CES; certainly other manufacturers will enter that market.

Ultra HD is very trendy right now – where does that leave OLED?

OLED is another story happening within TV. We saw OLED TVs last year at CES with distant and undefined launch dates. I think what you’ll see is more OLED prototypes and earlier commitments around shipment dates, we’ll be looking at Spring/Summer (ca May-July in Australia) shipment dates and I think you’ll start to see pricing revealed too.

CEA chief economist Shawn DuBravac.

Mobile gadgets have exploded in popularity – what’s the next chapter in that story?

There’s going to be a tremendous amount happening in mobile, which has really been the driver of the industry over the last year. In the US and arguably worldwide, without those two categories, you’d have an industry that was declining, as opposed to growing, for 2012.

One of the things you will see is what I refer to as ‘sensor density’. Five years ago, the average mobile phone really was an analogue phone, it really didn’t have any sensors embedded in it, and then slowly over time we started to integrate sensors and gyroscopes and accelerometers; not just one camera but eventually two cameras; we started with one digital microphone and now we’ve added a second digital microphone to cancel out ambient noise.

This sensor density will increase on smartphones. To date we haven’t really seen mobile phones that integrate pressure sensors, but I think you will start to see that showing up at CES. One of the things pressure sensors help you do is provide internal navigation. So a GPS can tell you which building you’re in but it can’t say which floor you’re on. A pressure sensor can tell you which floor you’re on, and together with GPS and an accelerometer, you can use it for internal navigation.

What about mobile software – how do you see that space?

I’ve called 2013 CES the biggest app event in the world because apps will permeate show floor and will permeate every booth. We’ve got 3,300-plus exhibitors and every single one of them will be highlighting how apps have influenced what they do or how they interact and engage and take advantage of app ecosystems.

Manufacturers showing hardware will have apps integrated in that hardware or they’ll have hardware that allows them to control or play or do other things with that hardware.

You’ll see it not just from the mobile device manufacturers but literally from everyone. People making stereos will show how apps can interact, for example, and you’ll see apps in hardware across the show floor.

Finally, what advice do you have for CES delegates?

Wear very comfortable shoes and get lots of sleep the week before because you are not going to get a lot of sleep the week of.

It is going to be a very exciting show. We have announced that it is officially going to be the largest CES ever – CES is already the largest tech event in the world – and now that event just got bigger.

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