CES 2013 preview: Tech companies don't have the living room figured out yet

Heading into CES, we know we'll see plenty of flashy and new TV displays. But then what are we going to do with them?
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

We're just around the corner from the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, so there is no shortage of buzz about what we can expect to see at next week's expo in Las Vegas.

However, here's something I don't think we'll see -- at least not until 2014. That would be a better and more mainstream plan for the connected and smart entertainment hub.

CES 2013

This is a bit of a tangent from my colleague Andrew Nusca's earlier predictions for CES 2013.

I definitely agree that we'll see plenty of thinner, crisper, and overall more gorgeous displays trotted out over the next week. But I'm more concerned about what we could do with them after taking them out of the box beyond just connecting them to a cable box.

Overall, I just don't think anyone has truly figured the living room out yet.

At this point, I'd say the best we've got device-wise is either Roku or Apple TV.

Yet I would prefer to do without the extra hardware and spend my money on a single device that can do it all. The technology is available, but we need the platform and content to make throwing the cash down worth it.

Certainly, Internet-connected TVs have been in the spotlight for the last couple of years at CES, and there have been presentations of platforms to match from the likes of Sony, Samsung and Panasonic, among others.

Depending on where you spend your money for digital content, Apple, Google, Amazon and (arguably) Sony are all at the forefront of the platform side.

Outside of CES, we've seen attempts that are still working themselves out (see: Google TV), and the world will be waiting considerably longer to see if Apple ever follows up on those rumors of its own television set.

Nevertheless, there is still some sort of disconnect or gap in this market that can't quite be explained. Perhaps the problem is that there are just too many platform and hardware options for consumers in order to determine a clearer path to the living room.

From gaming consoles (i.e. Xbox, PlayStation 3) to the aforementioned set-top boxes to just connecting the latest-generation smartphones to your TV via HDMI, there are a plethora of choices for setting up an Internet-connected entertainment hub in the living room.

While having lots of choices could be great for consumers and their varying catalogs of devices, it can also be overwhelming when it comes to making a decision. That in turn makes it more difficult for the platform providers to figure out what consumers like best. It's just a messy web at this point that still needs sorting out.

Sometimes it's just easier when you only have to pick from a few brands and platforms -- much like what is becoming the case for mobile operating systems.

I would be delighted to be proven wrong, but I don't think we'll see a business model and connected platform that will resonate with the majority of consumers until at least next year.

Be sure to check back on ZDNet starting Sunday evening for continuous coverage as the world's largest technology trade show takes off.

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