3 trends to watch at CES this week

The show will build on last year's popular technologies, including 3-D printing and hybrid ultrabook tablets.

By InvestorPlace Jan 6, 2014 3:22PM

Image: Teenage boys watching television with 3-D glasses © Robert Daly/OJO Images/Getty ImagesBy Brad Moon

The Consumer Electronics Show -- better known as CES -- is the industry's annual showcase of the gadgets, gear and technology you can expect to see fighting for space on retailer shelves in the coming year.

Last year's edition saw gigantic high-definition 4K TVs, big screen smartphones, phablets, tablets, 3-D printing and the first round of smartwatches take center stage. Samsung (SSNLF) had a big week thanks to its massive and oddly styled S9 UltraHD TV.

Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer had perhaps his last hurrah on the CES stage, commandeering Qualcomm's (QCOM) keynote to pitch Surface RT tablets and Windows Phone 8. (Microsoft owns and publishes Top Stocks, an MSN Money site.)

Meanwhile, Apple (AAPL) -- which chooses not to attend CES -- remained in the background, although the company's presence is always felt as attendees ask: "What would an Apple version of this look like?"

Based on the hype leading up to CES 2014, what are the big developments shaping up in Las Vegas over the course of the week? There are always surprises, but here's an overview of trends to watch for at the Consumer Electronics Show 2014 edition.

4K TV inches closer to mainstream

Last year, 4K TVs were the eye candy at CES. Expect to see more of the same this year, but with a wider range of models.

Yes, there will still Ultra HDTV sets that cost more than a car, but manufacturers like Sony (SNE), Samsung and LG are facing competition from upstart Chinese companies trying to break into the U.S. market with cheap 4K TV offerings. So expect to see more affordable 4K TVs added to the lineup at CES 2014. In addition to 4K TV, expect to see more curves, with OLED TVs that improve on traditional flat screens picking up steam.

The other challenge 4K TV makers faced was a lack of content, and that should also be addressed at CES 2014, with Netflix (NFLX) expected to announce details of its Ultra HD 4K video streaming service. Google's (GOOG) YouTube is also primed to make a 4K streaming announcement.

Tablets and smartphones

The market for mobile devices may be maturing, but that doesn't mean the competition isn’t fierce and that there’s nothing new to be seen.

Intel (INTC) and Microsoft are expected to be giving Windows 8.1 tablets a push at CES 2014, while more manufacturers jump on the cheap Android tablet bandwagon. Also expect to see more hybrid devices like transforming ultrabook/tablet offerings as PC makers struggle to avoid being eclipsed by tablets.

Look for smartphone displays to get even higher resolution, while Samsung, LG and others are expected to show off their latest smartphone innovation: curved screens. Now that "big" has gone about as far as it can without looking ridiculous, curved screens may be a common sight on the CES 2014 floor and coming soon to your next smartphone.

3-D printing

3-D printers were everywhere at last year's Consumer Electronics Show, and there were some big movements in the industry in 2013 -- notably Stratsys (SSYS) buying MakerBot. Consumer 3-D printers like the Cube from 3D Systems (DDD) finally made their way onto big box retailer shelves, albeit at a rather hefty price point.

3-D printer stocks were on a tear in 2013, but we have yet to see the breakthrough where 3-D printing finally goes mainstream.

At CES 2014 those 3-D printer manufacturers are going to have another go at convincing people that this is the year to buy a 3-D printer.

These are just some of the trends hitting the show. We also explore three other trends to watch at CES 2014 here.

More From InvestorPlace

As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

Jan 8, 2014 11:16AM
So, how many of these gadgets are deemed "necessities"?
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