A Love Letter to 2010, the Year Ahead and the Consumer

Top of Mind

A Love Letter to 2010, the Year Ahead and the Consumer

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines  |  February 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY Magazine.

With continued high unemployment and an economy still in the doldrums, last year was kind of a bummer on many fronts. But you sure couldn’t tell that from the talk and general sense of excitement at some of the recent trade shows I’ve been attending.

TMC’s own ITEXPO in Miami this month is rocking, with a better-than-ever line up and strong attendance. And people at the Consumer Electronics Show, which I attended last month in Las Vegas, seemed especially upbeat about the past year and the prospects for the year ahead as well.

In his opening night keynote, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer noted that 2010 was an exciting year for the company and its customers, with the launches of Windows Phone (News - Alert) 7, Office 2010, KINECT and various other products. The cloud, natural user interfaces and machine learning were all big bets Microsoft made relating to those products, he added.

Needless to say, he went on to comment that KINECT helped Microsoft (News - Alert) rock the 2010 holiday season.

“This has been the biggest holiday…for Xbox,” he said.

Paul Otellini expressed similar sentiments about 2010 in his comments during a press conference at CES. Intel’s (News - Alert) president and CEO mentioned that both Intel and the industry had their best year ever.

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA, the organization that puts on CES (News - Alert), said to expect a 3.5 percent increase in consumer electronics revenue in 2011, which would amount to more than $186 billion. That’s consistent with, but of course much better messaging than, Shapiro could offer at the last CES I attended, which I believe was three years ago. During that show he admitted to members of the press that the economy and growth picture for tech were grim, but the consumer electronics industry would make a comeback.

And indeed it is starting to. And that means newer and better devices, and growing demand for the services and networks that power them.



On a separate note…

The movie Avatar broke box office records and amazed us with its 3D affects. Now Avatars appear to be poised to move into the mainstream.

At CES several demonstrations by leading companies including Alcatel Lucent (News - Alert), Intel and Microsoft Corp. showed how avatars can come in to play in gaming (the one area where avatars already have taken flight, but wait, there’s more…), retail applications and, really, any kind of real-time interactions.

In his CES keynote, Ballmer revealed that the next-generation version of KINECT, Microsoft’s popular body motion peripheral to Xbox LIVE, will offer avatarKINECT. This new feature will track the facial expressions of the player and apply them in real time to that user’s avatar.

Avatars also were present in the Virtual Stylist demonstration put on in Alcatel Lucent’s CES booth as part of its ng Connect Program (see page xx for more on this). In this demo, a customer walked into a dressing room at a clothing store, and technology in the room created her avatar. The customer was then able to see her avatar in the clothing she selected (with the assistance of a stylist via HD videoconference) and to save that data in a digital wallet for later viewing and sharing.

Part of the Intel keynote presentation also included an avatar. One of the Intel workers on stage had his avatar converse with – and make a lot of facial expressions to – Mooly Eden, vice president and general manager of the PC client group at Intel. Following these interactions, Eden commented: “I’m willing to bet in three to four years the way we’ll interact with our devices will be totally different, and we’ll look at the keyboard and screen like they are from the middle ages.”

While business typically was the earlier adopter and set the tone for what happened in technology, it’s the consumer who’s in the driver’s seat today, as many in the industry continue to emphasize. And that’s kind of fun, isn’t it?

“When you speak to enterprises, you speak to the head,” said Eden. “When you speak to the consumer, you speak to the heart.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Edited by Stefania Viscusi