What to expect at CES 2023
I arrived in Las Vegas for CES Media Days. The omens of lighter attendance started when I booked my hotel without a deposit and found far fewer hotels blocked. After arrival, I received early check-in, which pre-pandemic was unheard of.
But I am here for information about technology futures, not the current tourist climate (which looked pretty vibrant, BTW).
I have seen some early press releases, most of which lifted today, but I’m going to concentrate on general categories for now. CES Unveiled takes place this evening, and I’ll start the detailed reporting and images after that event.
For now, here’s what I’m watching.
Not COVID technology
There will still be COVID-related technology at CES, but the tech industry, like Las Vegas, is coming to the end of its acknowledgement of the COVID threat. Hand sanitizers in casinos have become scarce, and writing about COVID technology will also likely be relegated to CES footnotes.
Laptops will continue to proliferate and diversify. With Apple’s push on custom silicon and new designs, they shook up the industry, even if the industry doesn’t admit it.
Responses will include better displays with a shift to more productivity-oriented aspect ratios. Look for view business laptops in 16:9. Full HD will be relegated to consumer devices focused on media consumption. Plenty will be written about folding OLED displays that create new use cases, but these will remain a novelty as the practical applications remain less transparent than the plastic that encases the OLED panels.
Laptops will also sport less anemic specifications including 2TB SSDs, standard RAM starting at 16GB, and a faster adoption Intel and AMD CPUs. Business buyers need to focus on devices that deliver business-level performance. The devices coming out of CES will likely make a better distinction between business and consumer devices.
That said, the number of models will still confuse buyers. Categories, like mobile business, creative, portable workstation, and others will help, but go to any major laptop vendor, and most of those categories will offer not only a number of models but a number of configurations for each model, with very little guidance on how to compare and contrast the offers.
I’m going to be talking to the vendors I meet with to see how to help support business buyers trying to make sense of all the options.
Display technology benefited from the pandemic and work from home. People previously too harried to worry about their screen resolution suddenly found themselves recognizing the cramped edges of even full HD monitors.
Suddenly, those once frantically meeting from room to room were now meeting on laptops. They needed a monitor. Then they realized they could have two monitors. This isn’t new knowledge. Microsoft touted the benefits of multiple monitors over 20 years ago.
Unfortunately, 20 years ago most people were lucky to put two 1024×768 displays together. Large displays will be on display at CES, and they won’t be just for gamers. Starting in 2023 we will likely see not just wide monitors, but taller monitors.
IT leaders managing laptop inventories may avoid the immediate refresh caused by updated specifications, but the new monitors may well drive a premature replacement cycle for those working from home, and as one of the enticements for returning to the office.
With ChatGPT making headlines (and writing its own), AI will shift from massive GPUs from AMD and Intel to discussions focused on the impact of AI applications writing, conducting research, and generating art.
While the ethics of generative AI technology will be debated in sessions and among journalists covering the show, technology will be plowing forward seeking new applications for purportedly enhancing the lives of those who don’t write for a living, while those who do create wonder if the world will accept the legitimacy of AI-generated words and images.
(See our deep take on ChatGPT and its implications here.)
The challenge for wearables will be to not look wearable. Apple’s watch dominates the wearables that look like wearables.
Several CES vendors will be exploring software hidden behind rings and watches and necklaces that deliver sensor information for personal health analytics.
My interest in wearables arrives from two directions. First, sensors offer people a better view of themselves, a way to reflect on their behavior. The sensors heighten awareness.
Second, sensors also offer a way to monitor in a data-driven world gone wrong. There is a rising tide of organizations watching their employees, how long they look at a display, how fast they type, and/or how long they stay on customer service calls. It is highly likely that analytics will find an insidious link to wearables that will monitor for control in service to a warped sense of what it means to glean insight from data.
Virtual…metaverse something…AR, VR, XR??
There will be an emphasis on the metaverse, but it isn’t going to make the concept any clearer. New VR hardware will appear, as will various versions of platforms and augmented reality experiences.
XR, which I’ll use as a general placeholder, remains in search of a business case that will make platforms catch fire. There are plenty of applications that will do good things, from helping people with PTSD to reducing the cost of maintaining complex hardware. But those niche applications won’t fund an industry or drive a transformation.
Photos courtesy of Consumer Technology Association (CTA) unless otherwise noted.