CES 2012: The big themes to look for next week

Summary:CES 2012 is upon us, and it's time to get ready for a whole new year in gadgetry and other tech goodness.

CES 2012: The big themes to look for next week
The world's largest tech trade show is just about to get underway, and even though there will be thousands upon thousands of products on display, many of them can be narrowed down and traced by a few major themes.

Yes, I'm talking about the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The scale of the show gets bigger each year, and there is just so much going on that it can becoming daunting (if not impossible) to stay focused and sift through everything.

Last year, many of the world's biggest companies tended to focus on trends such as the Internet-connected living room (meaning, an ecosystem of home entertainment within a single brand), the dawn of 4G-enabled smartphones, and just about anything to do with 3D.

CES 2012: See CNET's news and product coverage

We'll likely see continuations of these themes next week, but here are some of the bigger themes to watch out more for this year:

TABLETS: We saw a bunch of these last year, but really none of the tablets that debuted at CES last year really made a dent in the market. The iPad 2 and the Kindle Fire, neither of which had even been announced prior or around CES 2011, were the real money-makers last year.

So why should we even care about tablets at CES 2012? Well, the technology for tablets (and smartphones, for that matter) has improved significantly, and one can only hope that manufacturers have learned a few lessons in the last year. Furthermore, with the debut of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) later in 2011, there's definitely room for more potential.

ULTRABOOKS: Poised to replace netbooks and compete heavily with tablets and other laptops in the same size range, 2012 could be the year of the Ultrabook. Intel has already boasted a bunch that there are 60 Ultrabook designs with OEM partners set to roll out this year. Thus, you can expect everyone at CES to be promoting their own Ultrabook. It remains to be seen which ones will come out ahead -- if any at all if these new laptops can overcome some hurdles.

WINDOWS 8: Supposedly, some Ultrabooks are supposed to be running on this operating system, so we should see more about its launch soon. That could be as soon as next week as Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is lined up (once again) to give the main keynote address. Besides Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 itself is one of the only other big-ticket items that most consumers will likely be concerned with in 2012.  If not, expect him to talk about Kinect for another hour.

GREEN: Even though it seems like old news at this point, the eco-friendly trend is never going to go away and will likely always have a growing presence at CES and similar trade shows. In a way, that's a good thing. While the upfront costs are still rather expensive for most products that tout this facet, green technology has the potential to save a lot of money in the long run, and the more that developers keep this in mind, those upfront costs will eventually drop.

What not to look for? Apple or Google. These two prefer to host their own events -- Apple doesn't even exhibit at Macworld anymore, and there is Google I/O later in springtime.

And if you're a Microsoft fan, enjoy them at the show while you can as they'll be gone by 2013.

Be sure to check out CES 2012 news hub as we'll have full coverage and special reports live from the show floor in Las Vegas next week!

Related:

Topics: CES, Apple, Hardware, Intel, Laptops, Lenovo, Microsoft, Smartphones, Tablets, Windows

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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