CES 2013: Apps and services move to the forefront

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LAS VEGAS??Smart? products are a constant presence at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but this year, intelligence takes on a different meaning. Instead of simply connecting to the Internet, we?ll see devices that can analyze the data we give them and offer recommendations on how to save time and live smarter.

At least that?s what the Consumer Electronics Association said in a pre-show press conference Sunday. The International CES show floor officially lights up Tuesday morning.

The vessel for those personalized recommendations is (you guessed it) the app that runs on your device, says Consumer Electronics Association research director Shawn DuBravac. That?s why DuBravac says 2013 is the year of the app.

For example, the show floor this year will feature apps that digitize your posture and tell you to sit up straight, and apps that sync health metrics such as blood-pressure measurements with your calendar to determine which meetings stress you out most. You?ll even find moisture sensors for your plants that text you when it?s time to water them.

In other words, our devices will digitize the data from our physical worlds, analyze it, and offer us advice on what to do. ?Whether we listen to that advice is another question, but it?s meant to prompt us into action,? DuBravac said.

Big year for services

Hardware usually garners the lion?s share of CES press, but DuBravac expects more companies to show off services that take advantage of the devices we already own.

?We?re starting to enter a second digital decade,? DuBravac says. ?It?s not about acquisition of digital products, it?s about taking advantage of those products.?

As we feed those devices information about our eating habits, sleeping patterns, work schedules, and social activities, companies are itching to use that information to market still more products and services to us.

?Data is the new currency,? DuBravac said.

And consumer surveys indicate that Americans own a lot of gadgets, DuBravac said. Eighty-five percent of U.S. households have computers, most of which have access to broadband Internet. Smartphones are now in 52 percent of U.S. households. In January 2012, 20 percent of U.S. households had tablets. By the end of the year, tablet penetration had grown to 40 percent, DuBravac said.

Smaller innovations this year

Few tech experts are expecting this year?s show to feature the next game-changing smartphone or newest TV technology, but DuBravac says we can expect to see smaller innovations such as 30 to 40 new laptop designs, higher-pixel density screens (including 50 new Ultra HD TV sets), better voice and gesture-recognition devices, and increased adoption of flexible screens.

Microsoft will have a large presence at CES despite withdrawing from its usual opening keynote slot and gigantic show floor booth. The company?s new Windows 8 operating system is encouraging hardware innovation, according to a report from market research firm GfKand the CEA. Numerous hardware manufacturers will have Windows 8-based tablets, laptops, and desktops on display.

For more blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation's largest consumer electronics show, check out our complete coverage of CES 2013.

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