CES 2011: Size, Apps, or 3D--What's the Pixie Dust That Will Make TVs Fly?

It’s not that easy for TV manufacturers to wow consumers these days. Flat screens—ho hum, most CRTs long ago were relegated to the basement or the recycling center. High definition? Yup, most folks have that too.

Last year at CES, the manufacturers jumped on 3D as the new feature that would, once again, make old TVs obsolete in consumers’ eyes and lead to a wave of new TV purchases. Didn’t work (though folks in the market for a new TV anyway might pick a 3D model, they’re not madly scrapping their 2D TVs).

This year, TV manufacturers aren’t placing all their bets on 3D, though most still hope that it will eventually be compelling, once more 3D movies, sports, and other programs are being broadcast, or when consumers start shooting their own 3D videos. But they’re also trying the app-magic that proved so successful for Apple, adding a variety of Internet services to the sets and opening app stores. And they’re also hoping that bigger and bigger screen sizes will draw in buyers (though we’re getting to the point where room sizes will limit many consumers).

Here’s what all that looks like from the CES 2011 show floor.

I'm not so sure that TVs that connect to the Internet belong in the living room—I get cranky enough when folks channel surf when I'm trying to watch something, and how could you be connected to the Internet and not surf? But, on the CES floor, they turned out to be a great way to find out that Quarterback Andrew Luck is staying at Stanford.

LG has its own app store for its Internet TV.

The big 3D story at this year's CES is in personal 3D cameras of all kinds. The Sony 3D Bloggie will retail for just $250.

I'm not really out of focus as I video myself in 3D; you're just not wearing glasses.

And you have to be careful to wear the right glasses. At one point I walked up to a booth and a manufacturer's represented offered me a choice of three types of glasses, depending on which of the computer and television products in front of me I wanted to look at. Nonstandard and in many cases expensive glasses are part of what may be holding back 3D TV. That might partly explain why so many companies were also showing off autostereoscopic 3D displays.

Instead of 3D, some manufacturers are just continuing to go big.

 Or bigger. (This model has 3D too).

Overwhelmed by all the TVs....

...it wasn't surprising to see show attendees retreat. These futuristic iPad viewing stations were, surprisingly, tucked inside the NBC/Universal exhibit.

For more gadget news, check out our complete coverage of the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show.

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