Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The consumer tech industry is growing in several directions, but smartphones continue to set the pace.  For the time being, this star product is at the center of our digital lives.  Not surprisingly, it is also the top-selling device, despite leveling off slightly.  This season, analysts predict, the smartphone business will see single-digit growth, down from its previous double-digit trend.  With the exception of Apple, whose iPhone remains highly profitable, the main US manufacturers are losing sales to Chinese competitors, and all face the challenge of moving past a PC era that refuses to capitulate entirely. The challenge: the convergence of different electronic devices.

Hybrid laptops

Convertible laptops, many labeled hybrids, promise new experiences due to the mere fact that they embody two concepts: productivity and mobility.  Manufacturers are clearly trying to distance themselves from the limits of conventional computers, with the top brands unveiling their new catalogues at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

In its quest to become the leader in this sector, for example, Lenovo has tried to touch all of the bases.  The Chinese firm surprised the market with a new modular tablet, the first convertible computer with OLED screen technology. The lightweight ThinkPad X1 Yoga is an ultrabook and all-in-one machine that promises high performance.  The Windows operating system dominates this sector and has released a new version this season. Haier also shows potential and is more proof that China is displacing Japan and Korea as the leader of the consumer electronics market.  

Farewell to Android

In fact, Windows has been at the center of the year’s first big showcase for the industry.  Things move so fast in this business that it is prudent not to jump to conclusions, but the industry seems to be taking new steps to free itself from the tyranny of Android as the main operating system for mobile devices.  Samsung, its main proponent in recent years, is betting on growth with Tizen, but is partnering with Windows as well.

An example is the 12-inch screen TabS Pro tablet, which follows in the footsteps of Microsoft’s Surface line of products.  Powerful and lightweight, the TabS Pro is a warhorse.  Taiwan’s Acer, for its part, is entering the big leagues with its Liquid Jade Primo smartphone.  With Windows 10 as its operating system, it offers lots of features on a 5.5-inch screen designed for maximum advantage in a workplace setting.  
Our TV Sets Can Now Control Our Homes 

Following a period of experimentation with new materials and higher resolutions, manufacturers are focusing their efforts on image quality and enhanced contrast. LG leads the pack with a new OLED screen that is just 2.77 millimeters thick.  This is a milestone for a sector that, while not attracting the same level of interest as in other seasons, has set some of the industry’s most influential trends. 

The standardization of HDR to adjust to new systems for reproducing images pioneered by online video platforms such as YouTube or Netflix, and the emergence of Ultra High Resolution, or 4K, have set the stage for a scenario that puts the television set at the center of smart home technology. Samsung, in fact, has embraced the concept of the «Internet of Things» with the announcement of a system that allows users to control household appliances from their television screens.  

Start Your Engines

This year’s show devoted 20% more space to new developments in the automobile sector.  Many new ideas are in the air, albeit many of them in the incipient stage.  Examples include Faraday Future, with its concept of an electric sports car capable of reaching speeds of up to 320 kilometers per hour, or the Volkswagen BUDD-e, which can cover the distance between Madrid and Málaga on a single charge.  Increasingly, car manufacturers are partnering with tech giants to offer vehicles with new capabilities.