Summary:

Some of the biggest technology tail winds driving the consumer space in 2011 will include connected entertainment devices, over-the-top video, real-time communication and continued integration of social software into entertainment platforms. Combine all this with rising consumer confidence, and we can expect an action-packed year.

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Coming out of this year’s CES, it’s pretty apparent some of the biggest technology tail winds driving the consumer space in 2011 will include connected entertainment devices (in particular, TVs), over-the-top video, real-time and/or video communication and continued integration of social software into entertainment platforms. Combine all this with rising consumer confidence, and we can expect an action-packed year in the connected consumer market.

There are many companies in the space that will no doubt make themselves heard over the next year, but here are a few I think will be particularly interesting to follow:

Facebook

Facebook’s growth on the computer and mobile screens is almost a foregone conclusion; for 2011, Facebook knows that it needs a three-screen presence, particularly as more TVs go from dumb to smart and competitors like Google establish early, platform-centric efforts.

Currently, Facebook is talking to media companies as a traffic-aggregator and authentication engine; in the future, we predict Facebook could be much more. Envision content from large-media on a large-screen TV wrapped in a Facebook UI and personalized by a Facebook users’ own social graph.

We can also expect Facebook’s TV efforts to eventually include a paid-content component. The company has already established a payments business to monetize apps, and Facebook has followed Apple’s lead in creating interesting ways for consumers to load up on Facebook credits to buy digital goods. If Facebook does make a bigger play for entertainment content and a third-screen presence, it will also want to allow consumers to transact around this content.

Redbox

Unlike streaming from online services like Netflix Watch Instantly, OTT services are not a full replacement for DVD rentals today, largely due to their limited libraries of newly released movies. This is where Redbox comes in. The company’s ubiquitous kiosks offering dirt-cheap, $1 movie rentals is both highly addictive for consumers and provides a nice augmentation to limited online video libraries. And perhaps because of this, pundits have long-speculated about Redbox’s digital strategy. The company was cagey about what exactly it would do in online streaming, but it did indicate discussions with potential partners.

Expect it to do something big in digital in 2011. Cheap, pervasive DVD rental kiosks and online video streaming is a powerful combination; if allied with the proper partner (or even acquired by the proper partner), Redbox could be a significant force in consumer entertainment for the next decade.

SoundCloud

While music streaming services were the biggest news of 2010 in digital music, it’s likely music sharing and distribution using social cloud-based storage will be the story of 2011. Of all the new music-based distribution services, Soundcloud looks to have some of the most heat, with its app-centric approach to music publishing. The company already had, as of midway last year, 1 million users. Since the software works as a plug-in for most of the big blog-based publishing platforms such as WordPress and Tumblr, and is available on apps for Android and iPhone, expect more consumers, aspiring musicians and web publishers to migrate to Soundcloud in 2011.

To find out additional companies worth keeping an eye on in the coming 12 months, and to read up on potential acquisitions, see my analysis at GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Image source: flickr user scriptingnews

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