Tablets & Televisions: what to expect from CES

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Photo: REUTERS/Steve Marcus

• Glass! Millions of square inches of glass; numberless finger-smudged tablets as far as the eye can see. These will be mostly in the mainstream iPad style, but also the desktop-OS "Dr. Stylus" style that Microsoft just can't quit. It should be a good year for the former category, with RIM's PlayBook, a rumored 10-incher from Motorola, and Android 3 on the way. Expect every major laptop maker to have their game face on, finally.

• Will Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer get up on stage and announce another Windows 7 tablet? That would be quite the show. Even if he does, we shouldn't let it distract from the smart stuff, which will be in his Windows Phone 7 pitch. The slick mobile OS was well-received, especially its minimalist UI design, and has a rosy future if it can ramp up sales. Also rumored is a new version of Windows designed for ARM chips, which has baffled analysts but might hints at its long-term tablet plans.

• 4G and the Verizon iPhone. There's a lot of buzz around Verizon, as it's expected to offer up its long-awaited model of the iPhone this month, if not actually at CES. It'll be pushing the rollout of its 4G cellular network at the show, and the clues should be loud and clear.

• Mature Android smartphones, with clear advantages over iPhone 4, are closing in on Apple at the top end of the market. But the public perception of equivalence is denied to LG and co. by low-ppi displays and Android's rough edges. Expect CES's new batch to smooth things out.

• CES 2011 will be the death of the featurephone: cheap Android models will take their place this year. In particular it would be nice to see specialist handsets -- Casio's ultra-rugged models, for example -- get some brains.

• Apple, which doesn't exhibit at CES, could announce iStuff (say, an iPad 2) elsewhere. They did this with the iPhone in 2007 and it stole the show's thunder.

• Televisions will be everywhere, but there won't be much to see. The 3D revolution is out of steam and Google TV is already on the ropes.

• Laptops will also be in abundance, but that's business as usual. Netbooks won't be sexy again until they can deliver MacBook Air performance at a markedly lower price, and the most exciting tech upgrade going for the rest of the market is USB 3. Be on the lookout for good design, though: it often comes hand-in-hand with the lack of marketable spec bumps.