Upcoming Devices from CES

Last month’s 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show let consumers and enterprises glimpse the shape of the future hardware market.

Make that shapes. The variations on display included small tablets rivaling Apple’s iPad Mini, Windows 8-based tablets, enormous tablets exceeding the screen real estate of most notebooks, and large-display smartphones that edge into the tablet territory. The show also pointed to the future direction of Ultrabooks and underscored speech recognition as an increasingly prominent feature for a range of hardware types.

Hardware Options

In the tablet space, a number of products debuted with 7- or 8-inch displays and prices below the $329 iPad Mini. Another trend: the arrival of new Windows 8 tablets. Acer’s Iconia W510 and Asus VivoTab, both present at CES, come with 10.1 and 11.6 screen, respectively, and both have keyboard docks.

At the other end of the tablet spectrum, Lenovo introduced its, well, brobdingnagian IdeaCentre Horizon, a 27-inch tablet. Lenovo describes the device, which uses Windows 8 touch capabilities, as a table PC. The company says the IdeaCentre Horizon will support “touch screen game-play among several players” but can also serve as a desktop PC.

The hardware options shown at CES also included convertibles, devices that can shift from one form factor to another. One example: Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga 11S, a Windows 8 convertible that users can operate like a laptop and then flip the screen and deploy as a 11.6-inch tablet.

The “phablet” form factor, a smartphone/tablet hybrid, also grabbed some attention at the show. Lenovo, for instance, announced the K900, a smartphone with a 5.5-inch screen, which employs Intel’s Atom processor. [Disclosure: Intel is the sponsor of this content.]

The Ultrabook category -- the subject of numerous product announcements during CES 2012 -- continued to have a presence at this year’s show. Convertibles such as Dell’s XPS 12 and the touch screen-based HP Envy TouchSmart were among the Ultrabook products on the floor.

What Developers Need to Know

The range of form factors is an important consideration for developers targeting mobile devices. But from the user perspective, size and weight aren’t the only importnat variables. For enterprise customers, in particular, the form factor becomes an issue only after other requirements are met, says David Berg, vice president of product strategy at Shunra Software, which provides network virtualization solutions for testing mobile apps and other software.

“Essentially, [employees] want to be able to do their jobs with as few impediments as possible,” Berg says.

The critical components for accomplishing that objective boil down to enterprise connectivity -- the ability to remotely tap corporate IT assets in a secure fashion -- and the ability to both create and consume content, according to Berg. After customers feel they have addressed those two items, they will then think about a smaller and more efficient form factor, he adds.

Mobile Plans

Companies such as Intel, meanwhile, outlined their plans for the mobile market at CES. The company’s rollout includes a smartphone platform, based on the Atom processor, for emerging markets. Safaricom Ltd., a communications provider in Kenya, recently announced Yolo, a smartphone based on Intel’s platform.

Intel also discussed its “North Cape” specification, an Ultrabook detachable reference design. The design calls for an Ultrabook form factor that can convert into a 10mm tablet. Intel launched the Ultrabook-branded device market in mid 2011. The new Ultrabooks will employ the company’s 4th generation Intel Core processor line, formerly known as Haswell.

In another glance at the future, Intel suggested that more Ultrabooks and all-in-one systems will begin to offer applications for voice control, citing Dragon Assistant. The voice assistant application was launched in September and stems from collaborative work between Intel and Nuance Communications.

Nuance, for its part, provided a look at its Wintermute technology at CES. The company, which provides voice recognition technology for personal assistant applications, describes Wintermute as a cross-device persona project.