CES 2017: Winners and losers

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LAS VEGAS — CES is more than just a showcase of what the latest technology has to offer — it’s a cage match of competing tech trends. The gadgets and technologies we’ll be using tomorrow battle it out for our money and attention, and when the dust clears some inevitably come out on top.

This year’s CES had a lot to say about smart homes, self-driving cars, laptops and more. There’s a lot to be excited about in all those categories, but sometimes such rapid progress can leave some people behind. Here are the winners and losers of CES 2017:

WINNERS

Amazon

Anyone building a smart-home gadget couldn’t wait to tout its compatibility with Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based digital assistant. Everyone saw that trend coming, but it was surprising just how powerful Alexa’s draw was — even brands who don’t make smart devices were excited to offer products, like wireless speakers, bundled with an Echo or Echo Dot. Amazon may be the most influential brand at CES 2017 to have no official presence on the show floor.

Minimalism

TVs have been thin for a long time, but not this thin. LG’s Wallpaper TV is so thin that it makes an iPhone look fat. Thanks to OLED tech, which has self-illuminating pixels, the panels can literally be paper-thin, and they’re light, too — the 77-inch model weighs just 27 pounds. LCDs are pretty austere, too, with super-tiny bezels now the norm. And short-throw projectors and transparent displays are making the TV disappear altogether.

Laptops

In contrast to TVs, laptops are getting big again. Models from Razer, Lenovo, Acer and others prioritize performance and gimmicks over form factor. Virtual reality is partly to blame for this trend — if you need massive graphics power, it’s hard to build a slim computer. But there’s also a renewed sense of experimentation, with Razer’s three-screened Project Valerie and Acer’s beast of a laptop with a curved screen turning heads for their strange designs. If you want one of these, be sure to hit the gym

Personal health

CES had its share of ridiculous wearables, certainly. But many of the single-purpose health gadgets — like smart hearing aids and noninvasive blood analyzers — could really help people with specific conditions. And after you get past the oddness of devices like a smart breast pump, you can appreciate just how useful it could be to new moms. The rise of “treatables” is a trend worth getting behind.

LOSERS

Everybody who isn’t Amazon

Remember when Apple HomeKit was the sexy smart-home tech? Neither do most of the manufacturers in the field, it seems, as few — if any — played up their devices’ compatibility with Apple Home. Google Home wasn’t much of a presence either, although it’s early days for that platform and it wasn’t entirely absent. Other players are still around, but it seems Alexa has a monopoly on all of the momentum.

Phones

The smartphone is still the gateway to our digital lives, but you’d never know it from looking at CES 2017. Almost no major phone announcements happen at CES anymore, with Huawei boldly making an exception this year. Whether it’s market consolidation, slowing upgrade cycles or just a down year, mobile wasn’t part of the conversation at CES.

Privacy

Smart devices, often powered by AI, can create amazing experiences, but by their nature, they need to gather data about you, and that data can sometimes end up serving a different purpose. Whether it’s marketers wanting to sell you something, or worse, hackers wanting to steal your identity, the information from your smart gadgets is a target — one that didn’t exist before. As the Internet of Things gets more things, guarding your data is more important than ever.

 

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