10 Jan Initial CES 2019 Observations: Patrick Moorhead

I spent the week in Las Vegas and wanted to share with you my initial CES 2019 observations:

What happened:

  • Intelligence: Amazon Alexa dominated the show with its services and partners while Google tried really hard to catch up with Amazon, even going so far as to build a roller coaster ride to get attention. I saw more intelligence and personalization in many more devices than we saw before. We saw increased intelligence in TVs, speakers, stoves, refrigerators, microwaves, faucets, routers, hot water heaters, coffee makers, AC/heater, sprinkler systems, lawnmowers, and even PCs. Surprisingly, I didn’t see any added intelligence into robotic vacuum cleaners or washers, which was disappointing as companies like Roomba appeared to stop innovating. Samsung entered the robotics space with its “Bot,” but on the whole, saw fewer robots than expected.
  • Form Factors: I saw dual display smartphones and personal computers. The first batch of smartphones was weak, with suboptimal folding and user experiences, but I expect companies like Samsung to perfect the mobile experience. Dual-display PCs were in proof of concept stage and I saw some compelling use cases with provocative designs based on Intel’s new 10nm and 3D-packaged Lakefield part.
  • 5G everything: We saw many 5G services and some hardware like 5G home routers publicly and saw many 5G mobile devices behind closed doors. The state of 5G mobile device development portends to a very positive Mobile World Congress and I expect 100s of devices to be announced publicly.  Intel announced its 5G base station where it could achieve 40% share in the next few years, a big surprise.  Many press attendees were still grumbling over AT&T’s and Verizon’s prior “fake 5G” (non- 5GNR) announcements made prior to CES.
  • Bigger, better, badder PCs: We saw some unexpected and expected announcements out of PC chip providers and PC makers. NVIDIA, Intel, and AMD all had announcements, the biggest surprise was AMD’s Radeon VII. HP, Dell, and Lenovo all upped their consumer and commercial PCs offerings, and while I sensed a decline in the number of new announcements, gaming was up front and center.
  • Automotive: NVIDIA, Intel and Qualcomm all added new auto hardware platforms to improve the cockpit, safety, and self-driving capabilities. Automakers seemed to pull back their expectations on full L4 and L5 dates and focused a lot more on L2 and L3 capabilities. NVIDIA added an L2+ category to its line. Amazon Alexa appears to be the preferred cockpit intelligence choice in the car by Tier 1s and automakers.
  • Gaming everywhere: Gaming was everywhere with new products and services for smartphone, console, cloud, and PC gaming. Both Microsoft and Google were advocating for their cloud gaming services behind closed doors. Gaming was front and center for chip and PC suppliers.
  • XR, VR, AR: Announcements by HTC (Vive) and eye tracking company Tobii demonstrated that VR is slowly improving with improved user experience and lower costs. I believe foveated rendering plus eye tracking is a must for a decent VR experience. I saw a deluge of AR glasses that looked reasonably normal, an indication we are likely 2-3 years from an AR lift-off in demand. When I consider what 5G will bring to future AR experiences, I get very positive on the outlook as all that’s required is 5G and a video decoder. Qualcomm is leading the charge on mobile AR, pulling the industry together.
  • Bigger, better, badder TVs: There was more excitement in TVs than I expected, primarily around 8K displays, quantum dot and alternate form factors like the rollable Toshiba unit (commit for sale) and enhancements to the Samsung “Wall.” 8K content is sparse, just as it was with 4K and 2K (1080P) at this stage but am seeing the typical 8-10 year (inception to mainstream) content trajectory.
  • Commercial: While the “C” in CES stands for consumer, I saw many more commercial and enterprise products and services not necessarily related to consumer use cases or applications.  Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, IBM, Intel, and AMD all showed off commercial or enterprise products unrelated to consumer applications. These included servers, server chips, and enterprise PCs.

My expectations:

  • Intelligence: Continuing march of increased intelligence and personalization capabilities into home devices, autonomous machines, and services. Robots, cars, speakers, appliances.
  • Form Factors: Increased exploration of modular form factors. Dual displays. Foldable displays. E-ink and LCD/OLED.
  • 5G everything: Consumer and commercial devices and services. Most will be held for MWC, but we will see many at CES.
  • Bigger, better, badder PCs: Higher performance and lower power PCs from the top 4 with new supporting CPUs and GPUs from NVIDIA, Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm.
  • Automotive: Further conversion of the automobile to an entertainment, dining, and office platform with increased electrification, safety, and personalization.
  • Gaming everywhere: Gaming is a huge business and we will see improved platforms (desktop, mobile, console) and cloud services.
  • XR, VR, AR: While XR is moving down the hype curve more into reality, we will see further refinement of the XR experience.

Check out the team’s full coverage here.