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2011 CES and Cable Preview

1/03/2011 1:42 PM

The annual Consumer Electronics Show is this week and, no big surprise, the superlatives are swirling.

Samsung will unveil the “world’s thinnest” Blu-Ray player (23 millimeters); LG, which we all used to know as Zenith, will take the wraps off the “world’s largest” LED-backlit LCD display (72 inches).

For cable people traipsing through the million or so square feet of exhibit space this week, the relevant news will likely swirl around ways to attract consumers to cable services, on Internet-connected TVs. Call it a widget, call it an icon - it’ll be the clickable thing that sits near Netflix’s clickable thing, on video-capable, Internet-protocol-connected screens.

If this does it for you, be sure to tune in to Samsung CEO Boo-Keun Yoo’s keynote on Thursday afternoon, which will likely include some very familiar cable faces.

3DTV is likely to remain near center stage at CES this year, although without last year’s handy Avatar booster.

Also hot: Game consoles and HD gaming, especially WebTV founder Steve Perlman’s new “OnLive” service, which runs “over the Internet” (read: another huge bandwidth siphon) to connected PCs, Macs and HDTVs.

And tablets, tablets, tablets. Keynoters from Microsoft, Verizon Communications and Cisco Systems are all expected to trumpet the tablet as the Big Thing for 2011, especially now that LTE/4G mobile broadband is poised to serve up speeds that can handle video.

Recall: At last year’s CES, the closest thing to the tablet was the e-reader; Apple wouldn’t unveil the iPad until April.

Remember, though: Some CES introductions stick, most don’t. What stuck: HDTV (2003), thumb drives (2004) and phones with built-in cameras (2003).

What didn’t stick: Gateway’s push into flat-panel TVs (2003). Last year’s “Backflip” phone, from Motorola. Microsoft’s “Ultimate TV” push, back in 2000. AOL TV. HDTVs outfitted with OCAP (OpenCable Applications Platform, before the consumer-facing version of it was renamed to Tru2way).

But CES is also fun for the weird stuff. Composting toilets, robots that clean, device-charging pads.

Like this year’s “iGrill” wireless cooking thermometer, new from iDevice (and located in the all-things-Apple section of the show floor, North Hall). Pop the probe in the grill, walk away. When it’s time to sear some meat, get a message on your Apple gadget (iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch). Or, walk over to the grill and check it yourself …
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