CES Goes Social for 2011

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- With tablets and smartphones taking the stage at this week's Consumer Electronics Show, the intersection between gadgets and social media is expected to be a big trend at the event.

As the number of users of social networking sites like Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook continue to snowball -- the social networking giant recently surpassed Google ( GOOG) as the most visited Web site in 2010, according to Web tracker Hitwise -- electronics can no longer afford not to have a social interactive element within them, said Carl Howe, an analyst with Yankee Group.

The ability to allow owners to socially engage with others, he said, intrinsically increases the value of devices by connecting users to people and things they care about.

The new areas social media is expected to cross at CES:

Social Television

Led by the much-hyped Google TV, several electronics makers like Samsung and LG are expected to announce devices that merge traditional televisions with Web browsers.

Many of these TVs will come pre-loaded with applications that allow users to update their Facebook status via the Web interface, send out messages to their Twitter followers and engage with friends remotely to share and comment on what they're watching.

"There's definitely a renewed attempt from TV manufacturers to crack the screen," said Noah Elkin, an analyst at eMarketer. " They're trying to evolve TVs into more connected devices that are used for more than just passive consumption of programming."

Even outside these Internet connected devices, television and social media are becoming more connected as shows have started to display viewer's Tweets within their programming. One of the most extreme examples was during the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, where huge, on-stage screens streamed Tweets related to the awards show.

In addition, a number of mobile apps have surfaced like Philo, Miso and Comcast ( CMCSA)-owned Tunerfish, which let TV-viewers "check-in" to programs to let friends know what they're watching and post comments on social sites. Creators of these apps say that it's about more than users simply Tweeting what they're watching when; it's about allowing users to bond with a community of like-minded TV-watchers.

Connected Devices

Illustrated by video game consoles like Sony's ( SNE)- Playstation 360 and Microsoft's ( MSFT) Xbox that let consumers connect and play games with their friends online, social media is "integrated tightly" within connected devices, said Jeremiah Owyang, an industry analyst at Altimeter Group.

At this year's CES, analysts expect to see more connected devices with social media capabilities, from home appliances to cars.

Ford ( F), whose Sync system already allows drivers to operate their phones hands-free and use voice-controlled versions of digital navigation technology and Pandora, is expected to announce even more social media-equipped initiatives. (This will be Ford CEO Alan Mulally's third year delivering a keynote at CES.)

"You have these experiences on the go and want to be able to share them in real time with people who matter to do -- this is starting to infiltrate all types of electronics," eMarketer's Elkin said.

Mobile Applications

And of course, with the bevy of powerful new smartphones and tablets expected to be announced at CES, the availability of quality, mobile apps -- which are increasingly seen as an important factor in a consumer's phone-buying decision -- will grow.

Mobile apps, particularly those with features that allow users to share their location and buying preferences with friends, provide valuable information for marketers looking to understand their consumers likes and needs.

CES will feature sessions that concentrate on issues that impact app developers as well as brands and marketers.

For example, a session called "The Apps: The Smartphone and Tablet" on Jan. 5 will feature a discussion from execs at Adobe ( ADBE) and MTV about how they're using apps to target consumers.

--Written by Olivia Oran in New York.


>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/Ozoran.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.

If you liked this article you might like

Why Stocks Fell (And Why All Is Not Lost): Market Recon

Why Stocks Fell (And Why All Is Not Lost): Market Recon

Why Facebook's Stock Is Not Rallying Like the Rest of These Big Tech Names

Why Facebook's Stock Is Not Rallying Like the Rest of These Big Tech Names

3 Hot Reads From TheStreet's Top Columnists

3 Hot Reads From TheStreet's Top Columnists

Bonus White Papers: The FAANGs

Bonus White Papers: The FAANGs

Apple Should Rally 11% From Here: Bonus White Paper

Apple Should Rally 11% From Here: Bonus White Paper