CES 2011 Preview: It's all about the tablets

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: January 3, 2011

With CES only days away (January 6-9), what to expect at the convention seems to be the conversation topic of choice between my friends, coworkers, and curious family members. Every year I like to try and think of the most bizarre thing that will be unveiled at the event. Unfortunately, this year I have no guess for the ultra-bizarre. After reading a PCMag article by Lance Ulanoff, I'm a little thrown off. My favorite candy, Reese's, is somehow getting mixed with my other favorite thing, technology, so I'm sure you understand. That's right, Reese's is having some mystery product unveiling at CES, which definitely has the potential to take home the cake as most bizarre.

There's no doubt that the area of interest this year will be the tablet sector. Nearly a year after the release of the iPad, we're seeing an incredible influx of various tablets. Rumors of specifications have been diluting the headlines for weeks now and it's only getting worse as the convention approaches. The majority of the tablets to be announced will undoubtedly powered by Google's increasingly popular Android platform, probably Honeycomb (version 3.0).

If you remember a while back, there was a company claiming that there would be at least five different Android tablets sporting Honeycomb at CES. If this proves to be true, we will get a good, long glimpse of Google's new mobile UI and an idea of what to expect this year from them. It will also only be a tease if the Honeycomb dual-core/high-res display requirements prove to be true, which means many of us will never see it on our current handsets.

Of all of the tablets we do expect to see, one does stand out though, as it is more of a mystery than others. Fox News says that they have confirmation from a reliable source that HP/Palm's latest endeavor, the webOS tablet – or PalmPad – will debut this week in three different models. Ulanoff, on the other hand, doesn't think so. Either way, I'm excited to see any new webOS equipment HP cares to show us. Rumor has it that the PalmPad is a spin-off of the Slate running webOS 2.5.1. If this is true, that will be one serious tablet contender, that is, if HP learns not to overprice again. Anther tablet that we might get another peek of is the BlackBerry PlayBook. Being that the tablet is expected to hit shelves in March, a debut at CES wouldn't be out of the question. We've seen it before, why would RIM pass up another chance to show how hard they've been working on it?

Moving away from tablets, I'm sure we'll see some phones. But I agree with Ulanoff, I don't expect a lot of them considering MWC is just around the bend. In any case, there are some we would definitely like to get a glimpse of, like the Thunderbolt, some next-gen webOS devices, and that Vizio hardware that was announced early this morning. Another handset you can bet on sneaking into the scene in Vegas this week is the Optimus 2X. LG's most recent attempt and the world's first dual-core phone has already been released in Korea and is expected to hit T-Mobile in the next few months.

One thing is for sure though, all of those people waiting with bated breath for the official announcement of the Verizon iPhone, they can keep on waiting. Verizon is holding a 4G Android-only event. Plus, Apple wouldn't even think to share the stage and spotlight with other manufacturers. As Alex has stated a few times now, we can probably expect Jobs on stage to out the second generation iPad shortly after the convention is over, but there's no hard evidence or date. While he's on stage, he might as well knock out two birds with one stone, right?

My guess is, as far as mobile goes this year, many of us will be unimpressed or slightly bored with CES. We've been hearing rumors of high-end tablets that are supposedly going to be showing their faces at the convention for months now, and Honeycomb was already seen in a blurry photo. We have an idea of what it looks like and we also know a lot about one of the hottest upcoming phones, the HTC Incredible HD/Thunderbolt. It's proven pretty hard for companies to keep anything under wraps anymore, and some companies even leak stuff themselves. That leaves little room for something to impress us, but I won't completely rule out the idea of something blindsiding us and stealing the show.

Products mentioned