CES: Components Were the Headliners

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 {complink 4505|Qualcomm Inc.} 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.

8 comments on “CES: Components Were the Headliners

  1. _hm
    January 23, 2013

    That is very interesting – components were headliners. Apart from usual processor and GPU, what were most prominet components – sensor, power, RF and others?

  2. Todd Traylor
    January 24, 2013

    As for other component types that grabbed attention, the full spectrum of passives, actives, and peripherals were represented, but don't always get the headlines that the processors garner. Even though wireless and RF components are pushing with advancements, and battery and power consumption have made strides forward, they are not as “glitzy” as MPU's, CPU's, or GPU's. Even though Broadcom, Murata, TI, Marvell, Atmel, SanDisk and others have super product ranges with amazing technology, they just don't get the coverage they deserve, but not for lack of effort.

    Intel always takes the spotlight with their prime location at the entrance of the Central Hall, so you are correct that normal processors get the most coverage. And Qualcomm's success with Snapdragon helped garner extra processor buzz as well. Then add ARM and all the wins they have going, and it was processor overload. But graphics processors certainly got more coverage for Nvidia than usual as well, even if the reason was possibly for releasing a gaming device.

  3. Mr. Roques
    January 24, 2013

    Has NFC lost its push? I haven't heard much about it lately, and there are new technologies that are competing against it.

    January 24, 2013

    It was interesting to hear your take on the components stealing the limelight but surely it is the apps driving the chips?  I could not attend CES so I do appreciate the insights you offer.

  5. bolaji ojo
    January 25, 2013

    Components are not always in the news but they are extremely important to the electronics supply chain. Those who value components focus on how it can elevate their products and give them a competitive edge. As you noted, they are important but only to those who understand this.

  6. bolaji ojo
    January 25, 2013

    Apps are in the limelight but their value to the supply chain is minimal. The sales of apps is nowhere near the annual $300 billion sales value for chips.

  7. Todd Traylor
    January 28, 2013

    Most likely NFC will be for smartphone communication, but the success of WiFi and even Bluetooth have made some of the security concerns for NFC a bit of a hurdle for large scale adoption. Some NFC technology is being used, but we are primarily hearing about it through RFID or Proximity Card technology, which is based on NFC.

  8. Todd Traylor
    January 28, 2013

    As far as apps driving chips, or chips driving apps, that has been an ongoing conversation for years. However, one can also phrase it as, “software driving hardware or hardware driving software.” Both are always true when phrased this way. New hardware and chip developments allow for more robust software and apps. Likewise, advancements on the software and apps side of the equation will trigger improvements to be made by the hardware and chip companies.

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