Top 5 Trends at CES

CES is winding down — I’m looking forward to getting some sleep (kicking it at Bloghaus tended to go a bit late . . . OK way late) and getting out of Vegas. There’s only so many days of smoky casinos, bad carpeting and long taxi lines one can take. Even though the convention was upstaged by the iPhone there was still a torrent of bite-sized news from the industry’s tech titans. I spent our last day at the show traversing the floor and checking out the goods — huge video displays, sleek phones, media-streaming hardware, and this guy’s most excellent drum machine watch. The trek helped us ponder the show’s top 5 trends:

1) Content everywhere: We want all of our media on all of our screens — the PC, TV and mobile devices. Place-shifting always seems to be a favorite topic at the show and this year it was even more so. Motorola’s Ed Zander and Cisco’s John Chambers gave pretty much the same place-shifting demos in keynotes, and Gates had similar visions of a wired world. Startup Sling Media had a new device that moves video from the PC to the TV, and Netgear decided to go the same way with its Digital Entertainer HD. The end goal? A seamless experience, accessing content where you want, when you want.
2) Mobile TV: Television on cell phones — a new ecosystem for new players? Not so much as most of the same old big companies are making the main moves right now. Verizon Wireless and Qualcomm made mobile TV news with the upcoming launch of MediaFLO-powered services. Handset partners LG and Samsung and content partners like CBS are in on the deal, too. Modeo’s announced mobile TV beta service pales in comparison. And not-so-little startup MobiTV is working with the cable companies and Sprint for a mobile TV offering.
3) Location-aware: Devices with GPS, Wi-Fi, and cell-tower access are using location to create a smarter experience. Navigation applications are the first killer app, and Nokia’s Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo showed off the company’s navigation service smart2go during a keynote. A whole section of one hall had location-based services and mobile devices like this Wi-Fi-enabled iRiver w10 that finds location via Skyhook Wireless.
4) High def: Almost every display on the floor had HD stamped on it and some of the show’s earliest news focused on HD gear and the ridiculous HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray standards battle. LG played peacemaker and put both standards on a player.
5) Storage jump: The more digital media we buy, share or create means we need more places to store it, including online. Average consumers, not just BitTorrent-loving tech geeks, want more storage and easy web access to it. Dell said it will offer an online data migration and backup service, Seagate announced its own online storage service, and Microsoft announced its home server that among other things provides a central storage site for content and remote web viewing. The bellweather storage device, the USB dongle, turned up to a12GB offering from Verbatim.
All these themes are nothing new, but as a friend at dinner put it one night at the Bellagio, “CES is all about incremental changes.” Maybe that’s why iPhone so easily outshined it this week. See ya later Vegas, until next year.