Every New Year, tens of thousands of people (170,000 this year!) from all facets of the tech industry descend upon Las Vegas for CES, the Consumer Electronics Show.
Although it’s roots were an event that showcased the latest in audio visual equipment, it has grown to embrace computing and now future technologies like automotive tech and wearables. However, one key point is that it is a consumer (rather than business) focused show, so you can’t expect HP to announce its latest SAN solution there. Despite that, there are still quite a few new technologies shown that are relevant for business, and here are some highlights from what we saw.
OLEDs are for More Than just TVs and Phones
OLED, known for its deep blacks and vibrant colours has become the go to ultimate display technology for all the best ultra HD TVs and also a lot of premium smartphones (like the Galaxy S6). However, until this show, you couldn’t find this tech used in many other products, especially ones for business. Well, both HP, Lenovo, Dell and Samsung surprised us by showing off notebooks with gorgeous OLED displays.
For business users, there is the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon Yoga and HP has updated its Spectre x360 to have OLED displays. Although OLED technology won’t directly impact your productivity in standard office applications, you will still appreciate the improved visual quality, and for those in the creative industries the benefits are greater.
Death of the Laptop Dock
Traditionally, there has always been one essential accessory for any business notebook, and that is a docking station. Dock’s allow you to expand the amount of ports the laptop has (which is always limited due to their size), and is also a convenient way to hook up an external monitor, mouse and keyboard. You just simply place the notebook on the dock when you get to the desk, everything connects, and you get to work. One of the problems with these docks is that they are proprietary – not just by brand, but even by model, where the dock your company bought 2-years ago might not work on your new machine.
Well, all that is about to change thanks to the new technology found in USB Type-C, that can use a single cable to send power, data and video back and forth. This means that the next generation of business laptop docks will let you plug one cable to your notebook to power it and connect to all your external accessories, including up to two monitors. On top of that, machines that support Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 tech can connect to up to three external displays or two 4K displays all from one cable.
The beauty of this technology is that it is NOT proprietary, so if you buy a Dell Thunderbolt Dock and later an HP notebook, you’ll still be able to use together. At CES, both Dell and HP showed off these new docks.
The replacement for the larger non-reversible USB Type-A standard has been around for about a year now, but until now not many devices have incorporated. This smaller plug can be connected either way, and the standard allows for much more that just data connectivity, as you can see in the section above about Type-C enabled docks.
As CES, we finally started to see a much wider range of machines, from business tablets to notebooks, incorporating Type-C ports, including HP’s super-sexy new ultraportable business notebook, the new 12-inch EliteBook Folio that only has two Type-C ports for connectivity.
Although modular components are nothing new, at this year’s CES we saw more and more companies showcasing attachments that can enhance or even transform the way they work. Lenovo had a new business tablet on display, the ThinkPad X1 Tablet and it will be available with a number of modular extensions. The Presenter Module transforms it into a powerful presentation device by adding a Pico projector, the Productivity Module adds additional ports and battery life, and the 3D Imaging Module incorporates an Intel RealSense 3D camera that transforms the X1 into a 3D scanner.
Lenovo displayed some additions to its innovative ThinkPad Stack, which is a series of stackable accessories that all connect a single space-saving tower of options. The original stack included a wireless router, Bluetooth speaker, external hard drive and power bank, and joining them is a wireless charging pad and a (another) Pico projector.
VR is for More Than Just Games
Up until now AR (Augmented or mixed reality) products like Microsoft’s Hololens have been seen as the “new reality” tools designed for business, rather than fully immersive VR (virtual reality), which is more for games and entertainment. Well, at CES there were some demonstrations on how VR can also be used for business, and one of the most interesting was the Dassault Systèmes 3D experience.
Dassault, a French software company that makes the Solidworks CAD software, showcased how you can use consumer-grade tech like the HTC Vive VR headset and Microsoft Kinect to create a collaborative environment for engineers and designers to work on projects together in VR. This technology is designed to replace the expensive “VR Caves” that larger organizations in the aerospace and automotive industries use for collaboration.
CES, a Glimpse Into Our (Business) Future
For tech enthusiasts, January is always the most exciting time of the year, where CES lets them look at new technology that are just around the corner or perhaps a few years away. Although much of what is shown is consumer facing, many of these innovations find their way into the business space, and the above examples are only a select few from all the cool thing we saw at the show. Moreover, we didn’t even talk about self-driving cars, but that’s for another day!