For all the noise surrounding the rise of netbooks, the re-emergence of tablet computing, and the continuing global takeover of mobile computing, none of these categories really seem to have an overwhelming presence at CES in 2010.
Instead, the emerging theme seems to center around the home theater experience.
Television displays are everywhere, and where there aren't actual TVs on display, there are products aimed at how you watch TV, or how your content gets to your TV. 3DTV. Big TVs and Little TVs. Ridiculously big 160" TVs. Ridiculously thin TVs.
In other words, there's nothing particularly Earth shattering here, it's just an extension of what we thought was possible (or necessary) in terms of size and performance.
Take that 160" TV: Who can afford it? Who has a space for it? (The answer: If a, then probably b.) It's probably a good sign for the economy that such a product even exists.
As for width, it would appear that technology has hit a wall when it comes to how thin a TV can actually be. LG previewed some amazing (as-of-yet-unnamed) tech with their LED displays. In many cases, roping these super-thin televisions off from the crowd was necessary not only to keep attendees from handling them, but to keep people from walking into them when approaching from the side.
As for 3D in the home theater, who's asking for this technology? Are we seeking out 3D content because it's there, or is 3D content there because consumers are actually hungry for it? Yes, it's better than it has ever been before (out are the dorky red/blue glasses, in are the dorky charcoal-tinted shades) but it still feels like a gimmick that somewhat superfluously adds a dimension that most of us have never really missed when it comes to our on-screen entertainment: Where HD was the next logical step, 3D seems tacked on. James Cameron would probably beg to differ, but then James Cameron just may be to 3D what George Lucas was to CG.
Would Citizen Kane have benefited from having been filmed in 3D? More importantly, would a studio exec demand that it be filmed in 3D if it were being filmed in 2010?
Is 3D anything more than a warmed-over fad, and are consumers going to pay a high price for it, in one way or another?
Beyond desire, there's quality to consider: The units we viewed today were all over the map, but I didn't see anything which offered a perfect 3D experience, and the size of the TVs themselves were a factor in that. In a theater, when a picture is projected onto a massive room-sized screen, the "edge zone" in which the illusion is shattered as the picture bleeds away is less a factor due to sheer size. On the other hand--even on the biggest 3DTV at CES--there's a constant awareness that the environment ends at the edge of a screen, and whatever action happens to "end" there feels a bit unnatural. The 3rd dimension works great going into the picture, but not so great coming out towards the audience. Even at 60-plus inches, it's hard to feel truly immersed in the 3D experience.
Furthermore, some of the demos looked great in 3D, but blurry in 2D. Others looked acceptable in 2D, but not quite as sharp in 3D. Assuming broadcast television and digital media is to make a move to 3D, will audiences face an either/or option, or will we be able to turn the effect on and off at the push of a button? In households with mixed opinions on the format, it becomes vital that the experience be passable to all viewers at all times. Will we soon be forced to pay for a 3D and 2D tier on our cable bills just as we currently pay for standard and high definition tiers?
No matter. More and more, we're looking to our living room for our recreational viewing experiences and it looks as though that trend is being catered to with televisions in just about any size and format imaginable.
There's never been a better time to be a couch potato.