CES 2012: The five biggest surprises thus far

Nokia and Intel stole the show at CES 2012 with plenty of buzz surrounding Ultrabooks and smartphones.

LAS VEGAS -- CES 2012 is finally winding down, and while many of the big themes were predictable (hello, Ultrabooks), there were a number of surprises as well.

See also: CES 2012: ZDNet’s news and product coverageCES 2012: CNET’s news and product coverage

Here are five of the biggest surprise at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, not in any particular order, but some were definitely more buzzworthy than others.

  • Polaroid's Android camera: It's not really a phone, but more like Android's answer to the iPod touch. But really? With Polaroid? At this point, Polaroid is really just trying to hold on as it hasn't produced much of anything relevant in the last few years, but at least this is an innovative step for the instant photo camera company.
  • Samsung Galaxy Note: Certainly there were plenty of new tablets out on display at CES 2012, but this little guy drew attention as soon as the press touched down in Nevada. The gadget isn't even that new as it was revealed last fall, but once it became known that the 5.3-inch digital notepad would be available in the United States soon, it suddenly became relevant. (It also didn't hurt that Samsung basically littered Las Vegas in advertisements for the Galaxy Note.)
  • Sony Google TV set-top box: Google TV hasn't hit the mark in a way that has enticed a lot of consumers. Yet even though Logitech gave up on the digital television platform, Sony is not only continuing on, but it also unveiled a brand new set-top box for bringing the Google TV operating system and respective content to other HDTVs.
  • CES 2012 becomes the Nokia show: Just when you thought Nokia was pretty much on the way out in the United States, the Finnish phone maker had a huge presence at the show -- primarily thanks to some strong partners like Microsoft, Qualcomm, and AT&T. It became almost impossible to attend a press conference and not hear about the new Lumia 900.
  • Intel tackles smartphones: Everyone knew that Intel was coming into CES 2012 with a packed arsenal  of Ultrabooks. At first, I was afraid that the Intel keynote on Tuesday would just be 90 minutes of nonstop chatter about these super slim notebooks, but I was taken aback with Intel's new commitment to smartphone architecture. This will definitely be an area to watch over the course of the year.