CES Mobility Trends

Smaller, Faster, and More Capable Mark Product Directions at CES 2010

I'm sitting down at the end of the first day of the Computer Electronics Show with a head that's close to spinning with all the products I've seen aimed at mobile enterprise users (and, to be fair, all those that are aimed at other markets entirely). I'm going to have a series of blog posts over the next few days covering the products of interest at CES, but I wanted to let you know about some of the things I've seen so far...

In terms of trends, there are a oouple of things that come are quite apparent. First, despite rumors to the contrary, the netbook isn't going away. I've yet to visit a major computer manufacturer that doesn't have a variety of netbook-class computers in their display. When I ask product managers about the products, They're very consistent in saying that there is still significant demand for a small, lightweight computer that's perfect for performing limited tasks and priced as an inexpensive "companion computer" to be used when portability trumps all other considerations. The screens are getting better (as are the keyboards), but the basic concept is remaining consistent -- small, inexpensive hardware for reaching on-line applications and (perhaps) performing very basic office productivity tasks.

For some users, though, even a netbook is too big. Those users are increasingly turning to their smart phones as business platforms. Here at CES we're seeing a lot of options for protecting your smart phone (I had no idea there were so many ways to put a cover on a smart phone), but we're also seeing options aimed at business users, from ruggedized covers perfect for construction and manufacturing users to a host of products that tie a phone to a vehicle, or improve the input or output of the device. That's not counting all the software that's now available for everything from social networking to device control to accounting.

Of course the big news in smart phones this week has been Google's Nexus One Android phone. I haven't had a chance to review one, yet, so I don't know whether or not it's an "iPhone killer." I suspect it's not, but that it will see some uptake in the business market and a corresponding rise in the number of third-party applications available for the platform. So far, I'm hearing a lot of buzz about Android phones, and a lot of buzz about the iPhone, with few people talking about the Blackberry, and practically no one mentioning Palm. The smartphone times, they are a-changing...

There are two other significant trends in motion here at CES. The first is the increasing presence of tablet computers in vendor booths. As with netbooks, it's obvious that there is a market for these devices, and that the market is growing. The ultimate size of the market isn't clear (at least to me) though I'll hazard a guess that it will continue growing, and probably grow at a faster rate once the Apple tablet is available. Tablets and netbooks aren't synonymous, though they'll converge more than they diverge in the next few years.

The final trend I want to talk about is the intense interest in power here at CES. The interest goes in two directions, capacity and environmental sensitivity. Capacity is increasingly critical as more users depend on mobile devices for business-critical applications and want to know that their hardware will be available for as much of the business day as they require. Further, they want that power to come in a "green"package, whether that means generation from solar or wind power, elimination of vampire power use, or highly-recyclable materials.

It's only the first day and I'm already tired -- this is a huge show and there are miles of aisles to walk. Video and more blogging tomorrow, so check back often -- and let me know what you'd like to see me check out while I'm here in Las Vegas.

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