'iPhone 6, anyone?': high hopes for high-tech at 2013 gadget shows [National, The (United Arab Emirates)]
(National, The (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) More than 3,000 tech companies are showing off their latest wares in Las Vegas at the International Consumer Electronics Show. Justin Sullivan / AFP
An annual tech tradition is underway, once again delighting - but also frustrating - plenty of gadget fans around the world.
As consumers had shiny new iPad minis, SIII smartphones and other devices making their way into homes during the winter holiday, manufacturers had already started preparing for this year's follow-up releases.
More than 3,000 tech companies are showing off their latest wares, which include so-called smart watches and other pocket-sized trinkets, in Las Vegas at the International Consumer Electronics Show this week.
Some of the bigger-ticket items include new vehicles from Lexus and Audi that boast self-driving features such as the ability to pull into a parking spot without a driver having to use the steering wheel.
Next month, it is expected that smartphone makers such as Samsung, Nokia and HTC will unveil new models at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona.
As a group, smartphones have become the primary revenue driver for the tech industry, with shipment revenues forecast to reach US$37 billion (Dh135.9bn) this year, up from $33bn last year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association.
Meanwhile, consumer electronics makers such as Apple, Microsoft and Research In Motion plan to host events early this year to unveil new products of their own.
Tech retailers in the Emirates hope fancy features embedded in certain technologies will reignite interest in subsectors that have struggled of late.
Televisions, for one, sold well among early adopters when "smart" models were first released.
Some could stream videos from the internet or display photos that were saved on a USB stick.
But the next generation of smart TVs should go beyond (slowly) playing YouTube clips or requiring a USB stick full of digital content to be plugged in, says Julien Pascual, the chief executive of EmiratesAvenue.com, an online tech retailer.
Mr Pascual says consumers are looking for more engaging features, such as being able to see what Facebook friends are watching live or receiving recommendations of TV programmes to view or record based on the shows you normally watch.
This might seem fanciful to some, although Cisco seems to be on board with the plan.
This week, the company introduced Videoscape Unity, a system that includes software that can recommend shows based on an individual's viewing habits.
Other retailers expect Apple will finally release a full-blown television this year, which has been long been rumoured to be in the works.
The latest speculation is that the company is working with electronic components suppliers on testing different TV set designs, so don't hold your breath for an immediate unveiling.
"I hope Apple finally comes out with their television," says Ashish Panjabi, the chief operating officer of Jacky's, an electronics retailer in the UAE.
"There is a lot that is lacking in terms of innovation of televisions and, hopefully, we see Apple change the way we view, distribute and interact with content on our television."
If Apple disappoints, Samsung may not.
The South Korean company teased this month that it was ready to reinvigorate consumer interest in the television market. On its blog, the company posted an image of what seemed to be a translucent TV where, when turned off, a viewer could see through an opaque screen and view whatever hung or stood behind it.
Is this a must-have feature Hardly. But from Samsung's perspective, the aesthetic touch is "a true innovation of TV design".
When it comes to tablets, retailers are not expecting the kind of overhaul the TV market might experience.
Yet there will be a growing selection of tablets to choose from, including more packed with a higher number of pixels and powerful processors to improve the display and performance of that ever-growing collection of apps.
Executives at JadoPado, Jumbo Electronics and Jacky's all say they expect sales in the tablet category to pick up compared with last year, especially as more models are priced at about $200 or less to attract price-sensitive shoppers.
According to data from the Consumer Electronics Association, tablets are poised to bring in $37bn in shipment revenue, up from $31bn last year.
The tablet market "will be one to watch as I expect feature sets to increase and price points to get more competitive", says Omar Kassim, the founder of the retailer JadoPado.
Some new computing features could trickle down to tablets in the future, continuing the hot sales streak, such as 3-D gesture control, which enables users to manipulate their desktop without actually touching it.
Leap Motion, a company based in California, says it is taking pre-orders for a limited number of $70 controllers that would work with a desktop in this way, effectively allowing people to play Angry Birds, or whatever, with just the flick of a finger. An increased number of hybrid tablets that can switch from laptop mode to pure slate, typically by removing a detachable keyboard, is also expected to boost sales.
In November, Samsung released that kind of combo device - the Ativ Smart PC - in the UAE for Dh2,999 to Dh4,499.
The growing mobility of more devices comes with its downsides, however. Analysts warn the number of breaches of data may fall this year but that the number of individuals affected by each one is likely to rise.
David Gorodyansky, the chief executive and co-founder of the tech security company AnchorFree, also warns that expats "are probably more exposed to security threats than anyone else because they travel a lot".
"They're connecting to Wi-Fi spots in a hotel, a new apartment and so on, and browsing new websites they may not have browsed before," he says.
Other devices are far from mobile but are still regarded as seedlings in terms of their sales potential within the overall tech sector.
Take 3-D printers. They can take in raw materials then spit out certain objects that are specified in designs, such as rubber moulds of model houses or toy castings.
But each one can cost more than $2,000, and as a group, they are first expected to become popular among business users before transitioning to consumers, say analysts.
"We're going to see a lot more buzz and interest [and] real viability in shipments of 3-D printers," says Tony Olvet, the group vice president of research for IDC Canada.
"This is the beginning of a revolution of printing."
Of course, blockbuster gadgets that revolutionised other areas of the tech sector are also expected to come back with the usual faster, thinner and lighter upgrades.
Some retailers certainly have their hopes pinned on their return.
For Mr Kassim, it boils down to just three words: "iPhone 6 anyone "
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