CES overview: Five big trends for 2012

CES overview: Five big trends for 2012
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We've taken a breather from the CES showroom floor to highlight five looming tech trends in 2012.

The gigantic CES 2012 gadget expo in Las Vegas may have only reached the halfway point, but the technology on show has already given us a good indication of what the upcoming year may hold. Read on to find out what we think will be hot in 2012; along with a few technologies that we think might be in trouble.

In no particular order, here are five big trends we've spotted at CES, which we think will be important in 2012:

2012 tech trends #1: Ultrabooks

The Ultrabook is everywhere at CES 2012. Indeed, these sleek, stylish and powerful low power laptops have been the most talked-about pooducts at the show. If you've dismissed the platform as a Macbook Air wannabe for Windows users, you need to take another look - the variety on display at CES was impressive, with business models, tablet hybrids and highly original designs jostling for the crowd's attention.

Provided they can get the pricing right, expect Ultrabooks to have a big presence in 2012. (Recent announcements, such as the US$849 Lenovo ThinkPad T430u suggests that the price-barrier wont be a problem for much longer.)  

2012 tech trends #2: New interfaces

User interfaces are set to change in a big way in 2012. The launch of Windows 8 will see touch-based UIs arrive on desktops around the world. Intel has confirmed that non-traditional control methods will play a significant role for the Ultrabook platform in the coming months. "Touch, sensors and gestures - these are the sort of usages we will be driving in 2013", Intel's Ultrabook marketing manager Anand Lakshmanan told us at CES. In other words, using a notebook armed with just a keyboard and trackpad may soon feel a bit old fashioned. Flexible AMOLED displays could also be on the cards, courtesy of Samsung.

Meanwhile, Kinect will be making its debut on PCs this year - it seems that old cliche, the media centre with Minority Report-style controls, will become a reality. Voice control is also expected to gain traction in 2012, with smartphones, consoles and TV remotes all benefiting from this feature. In addition, Intel is working with Dragon NaturallySpeaking on a voice recognition system for its Ultrabook platform. And if you’re an Apple user, you can naturally expect more advances to Siri.

2012 tech trends #3: Convergence and integration

'Convergence' is a dirty word in some quarters, but this may be set to change if the plethora of multi-purpose gadgets at CES 2012 is anything to go by. Over the past few days, we've seen everything from IP TVs that come bundled with dedicated gamepads to Ultrabooks that fold into slate-style tablets. In addition, we can expect a lot more integration and communication between our devices.

The idea of owning a bunch of singular, unconnected products is swiftly becoming as archaic as your casette tape collection. If you don’t believe us, just take a look at your smartphone-cum-camera-cum-GPS-cum-multimedia player. Expect a lot more of this in 2012.

2012 tech trends #4: 'Non-console' gaming

Many of the keynotes and press events we attended at this year's CES featured a strong focus on gaming. Nvidia showed off how it was possible to play high-end PC games and multiplayer FPS matches over a streaming connection using Tegra 3-powered laptops. Intel also talked up the importance of gaming for its new Atom-powered smartphone platform. Lenovo, meanwhile, is packaging a dedicated gamepad device with its first IP TV.

Sure, not all the gaming gadgets announced at CES are necessarily a great idea, but there certainly seems to be more innovation present than at last year's E3. By the end of 2012, we predict gaming will be an 'any device' pastime that won't require a console or high-end PC.  

2012 tech trends #5: The continued rise of Android

Android is set to strengthen its market position in 2012, with Intel-powered phones, IP TVs and an onslaught of new tablets and smartphones (including new flagship phones from Motorola) jostling for your attention. While we think quality control will remain an issue, the ability to buy incredibly cheap devices running Ice Cream Sandwich should see the world continue to snap them up in droves.

Google's latest OS is swiftly becoming as synonymous as Windows: if you weren't playing with the operating system in 2011, expect that to change this year.

NEXT PAGE: Tech trends, companies and products that are beginning to slip...

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