It takes about a week for the chaos of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to settle and for the myriad impressions, speakers, experiences, conversations, and eye-catching demonstrations and displays to distill into more coherent and over-arching thoughts. This year was like others in that regard, except that the tone set by the Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM) opening keynote stands out as the theme to summarize the event: Components are the headliners.
The consumer electronics industry rests on the power of components. Today's components are front and center in product differentiation, because they drive the features people demand. They are also pushing device capabilities in new and exciting ways that will continue to drive demand. Important among these feature capabilities are power efficiency, always-on status, seamless and expanded connectivity, improved image and graphics quality (for photos and screen resolution), and faster processors -- all in smaller, lighter devices.
These features translate into extremely powerful multicore CPUs with integrated GPU and sensor hubs, along with the latest 4G LTE, 802.11ac WiFi, and Bluetooth. The show-stopping array of chips from leading manufacturers such as Nvidia, Qualcomm, ARM, Intel, Broadcom, Samsung, and AMD demonstrated the latest architectures designed specifically for mobile devices; the slimming, powerful line of ultrabooks; and the next generation of computing devices. Displays are enriched to the point of 4k UltraHD thanks to new material engineering, as well as the drivers supporting the graphics.
For consumers, the latest array of options and capabilities for smart devices, gaming, TVs, and computing are truly enticing and are all powered by the new component lineups. For the supply chain, the excitement is equally palpable. Rather than a litany of devices, each isolated and set to compete as a unit against a set of others, the focus is on the versatility of chips and what different component combinations can offer users in terms of price, features, and other demands.
The Internet of things and connected life have been displayed at many a CES by now, but this year, we did see real progress in getting to this point. Again, the means are the latest components, but the reason for this is because users have matured in their familiarity with what smart devices can offer. Now they want seamless connectivity to happen autonomously as they move through their daily life. The movement through places and locations without any breaks in their always-on, always-connected state is the connected life, and that life is pushing more smart home offerings controlled through the same smart device people carry with them all day.
Don't get me wrong. Multi-functionality of smart devices is not a new concept. Nor are any of the individual features or demand drivers. What is new from CES, and what is important for our supply chain going into 2013, is the focus on the exciting capabilities of the latest components, especially the powerful hybrid processors supporting devices across many markets: mobile, gaming, TV, health and fitness, medical, automotive, and industrial. CES 2013 was exciting, but for a chip person, it was just what the supply chain needs.