Leading consumer electronics manufacturers make no bones about treating the annual CE Week conference and technology showcase as a battle over bragging rights. Who boasts the biggest breakthrough, and more importantly, which innovation has consumers placing advance orders and techies frothing from their message board avatars?
But there is a distinction to be made: milestones in consumer electronics innovation aren’t simply marked by the advancement of the technology driving a single product.
More often than not, it’s the integration of multiple products or capabilities within a single form factor that drives the industry forward: Apple’s revolutionary all-in-one desktop design, the old-school DVD/VHS/TV combo player, and now -- on the precipice of CE Week -- a certified 4K HDTV that comes synced up with all popular programming sources.
At CE week 2013, the integration trend was largely focused on transforming iPads and iPhones into sound systems, word processing-friendly machines and an array of other two-in-ones. Fully loaded 4K Ultra HDTV, home theater PCs (HTPC) and smart home functionality also led the list of star attractions. The ante is upped this year, as the Consumer Electronics Association anticipates that the global spend on CE will hit $1.1 trillion in 2014, a 10 percent increase over 2013 projection and a 7-percent increase over the actual take of $1.7 trillion. So the expectations are even higher.
One innovation leveraging the consumer appeal of integration is Sharp’s aforementioned AQUOS 4K Ultra HD LED TV. This development underscores just how consumers no longer need to sacrifice quality for the convenience of integration. The TV features every dimension of superior picture quality you would expect; and each feature is impressively quantified: native 3840 x 2160 resolution, the ability to display up to 60 frames per second (fps) 4K content, a 21 percent wider color spectrum than standard LED HDTVs, and the list goes on. This TV is also expected to be THX 4K certified.*
But this immaculate picture-perfect design is just half the story. Its uncanny ability to integrate functionality is the rest of the story.
This includes interfaces that allow consumers to search for content across cable, satellite and streaming content all in one place, through highly intuitive search capabilities and embedded Wi-Fi capability. And perhaps best of all, you can usually lose your remote in the couch cushions without worrying because these TVs have mobile apps that enable your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet to double as a clicker. In particular, the AQUOS 4K Ultra HD LED TV provides access to an integrated smart guide with cable, satellite and streaming channels -- plus the ability to share music and videos to the TV screen.
There is no doubt that CE Week ’14 will showcase other innovation that breaks ground not only due to the advancement of a product’s primary functionality, but also because of the convenient halo effect it passes on to its secondary functionality, thanks to the power of integration.
As the CE integration trend burns brighter, biometric synchronization (or digital health and fitness), 3D printing, continued smartphone bundling of functionality, and TVs trailblazing both form and function all appear poised to dominate the scene. Integrated CE technology is here to stay.
*THX certification pending.
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About the Author
Craig Agranoff is a CBS & ABC television tech correspondent. He is the author of three books and a tech blogger for many well known publications.