Three over-the-horizon trends at CES


Cuanza River, Angola. Open source opens markets.

Everything about CES keeps growing, except the number of big players out on the show floor. Every year, there are fewer mega-booths and seemingly more small companies and start-ups taking 10×10 spaces or tinier ones in group exhibits. Plus side displays in mega-booths set up by big technology partners like Qualcomm or Intel.

That’s a good thing. It’s more work to find the truly new and interesting stuff, but there’s more of it. I’ll be looking for signs that three key trends are about to take off in 2013.

Wearable computing. More details are in yesterday’s post, but the other side of the coin will be machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity in personal electronics. If the promise of 50 billion connected devices by 2020 will be kept – and I think it will – always-on gizmos you always carry will account for a big share.

Mobile operating systems. Two major Linux announcements have been made. Samsung will make Tizen devices and Ubuntu is building for mobile. Factor in Samsung’s support for its own Bada OS, and a counterweight to Android is emerging.

Android is also a Linux platform (and Apple’s iOS is a Unix-derived cousin). With more Linux flavors in the mix, there’s more incentives to build software development tools and application architectures that can be easily moved across platforms. That means growing competition for Android but also greater gravitational pull to attract developers, manufacturers and carriers into the Linux family. Bad news for RIM and Microsoft, good news for the garage start-ups.

Convergence of the maker movement and developing world entrepreneurs. With 3D printing technologies and a new enthusiasm for crafting physical products, the maker movement is pushing small batch, highly customized products into consumer markets. Much of the technology is open source and relatively inexpensive.

The focus is on boutique items in rich countries. But in the developing world, it’s an opportunity for shadetree Henry Fords to launch national-scale manufacturing ventures. Some are certain to break out into international sales, and those are the guys I’ll be looking for next week.

About Steve Blum

Steve Blum is president of Tellus Venture Associates, a management, planning and business development consultancy for municipal and community broadband initiatives. He is a 30-year industry veteran and an expert in developing new broadband infrastructure and services, including wireless, fiber optic and satellite systems. His career includes playing key roles in the launch and growth of DirecTv in the U.S., as well as other satellite broadcasting platforms around the world. For the past ten years, he has helped build municipal wireless and fiber optic broadband systems. His client list includes many California cities, such as San Leandro, Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, Lompoc and Folsom. He’s a member of the executive team for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and has worked with other regional consortia in California. Steve is the author of seven books on the Internet and satellite broadcasting and is a frequent contributor to professional journals and industry events. He holds an A.B. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in East Asia Studies from the University of Washington, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He is a triathlete and multiple Ironman finisher, and is currently ranked in the top 100 of the Challenge Triathlon world rankings, out of more than 30,000 athletes.