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January 7, 2015

'Web Functionality' Takes Over CES

Posted by Suryaprakash K. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:28 AM

Gadgets, ideas unveiled at the International Consumer Electronics Show 2015 [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7Gg8v3ITqw]

This tantalizing item comes in just in time for the annual hoopla that surrounds the Consumer Electronics Show: One of the hottest announcements in the word of consumer electronics and technology is that WhatsApp could very well be working on a web version of its popular messaging app.

Web functionality. It's what everyone's taking about these days ... inside and outside of the CES. Digital messaging services like Line, Viber, Telegram, and WeChat let their users send messages via their mobile phones or through accompanying websites. So far, WhatsApp, arguably the most popular of all these services, has yet to make the jump onto an official website with full functionality. I suspect it will. Now that Facebook acquired WhatsApp for what most analysts and experts agree to be an absolutely impressive $19 billion, you can bet part of the messaging service's utilitarianism will include web functionality.

And why not? For years, digital communications devices were getting smaller and smaller. Along with those sleeker, thinner, pocket-sized models came the conventional wisdom that the days of big desktop or laptop screens that enabled a rich web experience were waning. It was all about texting. It was all about the rapid-fire communications back and forth with apps that were developed for tiny screens.

Well, we've had an astounding about-face during the past few years. People who attend the CES will see that we're now living in an age of the 'phablet.' It turns out all along that consumers enjoyed the features that came with larger screens. They can still tuck their devices away, but instead of pockets they're placed in briefcases or pocketbooks. And the Web, which has gone through its 1.0, 2.0, etc. incantations is primed and ready for another renaissance.

Also consider what one of the most revered technology analysts and investors, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, is saying about the smartwatch: It's not going to live up to the hype. Why? Consumers, he says, simply don't like wearing tiny little computers around their wrists. I, for one, will be watching the CES more closely than ever to see how the major manufacturers are treating the growing market demand for tablets and phablets. They're certainly catering to this demand even though they hope their wristwatches will take off in popularity as well.

It turns out that web functionality is driving a sea change in the consumer electronics market. Once-brazen and brash young apps developers are now creating web versions of their popular products not because they're cool but because that's what the market wants. There's a lot to be said about the growing sophistication of the digital consumer. Instead of lapping up everything that was put in front of them, they're setting the pace. They're dictating to the innovators what kinds of devices will define the next wave of personal communications. Hmmm. Innovation coming from the marketplace.

It turns out that the "Goldilocks" version of the digital device - not too big, not too small, but just right - is going to be the big theme of the CES this year.

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