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The Wireless World, 3-D at Home, and Apps (but No Apple)

Jason Stipp

Jason Stipp: I'm Jason Stipp for Morningstar, and welcome to a special Consumer Electronics Show Edition of the Friday Five. This week, Morningstar markets editor Jeremy Glaser headed out to Las Vegas for a sneak peek at the latest tech toys and trends. Jeremy, always good to hear from you, and thanks for heading out west for us.

Jeremy Glaser: Always good to talk to you, Jason. I know it was a tough call to leave the 0 degrees of Chicago for the 60-degree weather of Las Vegas, but somehow I made the sacrifice.

Stipp: So what do you have for the CES Friday Five?

Glaser: I've seen five big themes so far, the first being apps everywhere, wireless everything, 3D technology, the consumer not getting off to a great start, and finally, Apple is the king of the hill right now.

Stipp: All right. Well, let's start with the apps.

Glaser: Everyone here seems to be talking about apps. Since the Apple App Store just exploded, people want to put apps onto everything. Ford talked about getting apps into their cars. Vizio is putting them onto TVs. All of the other wireless makers are scrambling to build giant app stores.

One of the things that's been striking in talking to app developers is that there isn't a ton of desire to develop for a million different platforms. It looks like just a few big ones are going to end up winning out, and everybody else is going to have to find a way to adapt to that.

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Stipp: Well, apps are obviously a huge part of the wireless world, which seems to just be exploding in popularity and usage. And that leads us to your second point.

Glaser: If you thought enough things were wireless now, it looks like, in the future, absolutely everything is going to have WiFi or a cellular connection or a WiMAX connection. Whatever it might be, the idea of every single device that you have being connected to a big network--being connected to the cloud, if you will--definitely seems to be a dominant theme. It's hard to find a gadget here that can't connect to the Internet.

Stipp: And on the entertainment front, you said that 3-D is gaining some ground.

Glaser: With the burgeoning success of 3-D in movie theaters, we're seeing a lot of home-electronics makers trying to find a way to bring 3-D into the house. ESPN announced the other day that they want to create a 3-D network. There's a lot of different competing technologies, but a lot of consumer-electronics companies see this as the next step after HDTV, that people are going to want to put on 3-D glasses and get a full, immersive experience at home.

Stipp: So a 3-D TV may be giving consumers yet another reason to stay at home, something they've been doing a lot of recently. So, speaking of the consumer, what are you hearing from the exhibitors about a possible rebound in spending?

Glaser: 2009 was certainly a tough year for consumers, and for the consumer-electronics industry. Revenue declined for the first time in years. And right now, I think the consumer-electronics companies are still a little bit weary. They're predicting a really modest 0.3-percent increase in sales in 2010. And a lot of companies are trying to come out with lower-priced products instead of creating the most powerful or the biggest or the best. So things like netbooks are still very popular, and other lower-priced products.

Stipp: And for number five, your lasting impression of the omissions of the Consumer Electronics Show.

Glaser: One of the most striking things about the conference has been who's not here, and that's Apple. Apple traditionally doesn't come to CES, yet their presence is felt everywhere. You hear people talking about the upcoming tablet that could be released later this month, envy about how Apple's App Store is doing so much better and has so many more developers than competing platforms, and just a lot of people discussing how they're going to compete with Apple in the future. They really seem to be the elephant in the room that isn't even in the room.

Stipp: All right. Well, thanks for joining me, Jeremy, and enjoy that weather.

Glaser: Thanks, Jason.

Stipp: For, I'm Jason Stipp. Thanks for watching.