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Software at CES: Second screens take off, developers target TVs

Software and apps are poised to make a big splash at CES. And we think that splash could start in your living room.

CES is coming in early January, but contrary to popular belief, it isn't just about gadgets. A lot of software vendors make the trek to Las Vegas to show new and updated versions of software for just about every platform.

With the app stores for Apple, Google, and Windows exploding with new offerings over the course of 2012, we think this year's CES will have more new and updated software on hand than ever before.

As the in-house software editors at CNET, we have put together a list of predictions for this year's CES, from the probable to the vaguely possible. Check back in early January to see if our predictions for software bore any fruit or fell flat.

Apps to control your everything
The Google Glass-wearing daredevils at this year's Google I/O Conference showed us that software can run anywhere and on pretty much anything. You can wear it on your wrist or face, and you can even interact with it in your kitchen appliances. At CES, we fully expect developers to run with this idea, as they blitz conference-goers with newly reinvented household wares, like scales and baby monitors, all with software baked right in.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore/CNET

Voice control will only get better
Upgrades to both Apple's Siri and Google's Search app over the past year have made voice recognition technology a larger part of controlling our smartphones.

With Siri spreading beyond iPhones, and Google's Voice Search becoming a major competitor, voice control of your smartphone is clearly here to stay. Don't be surprised if there are new launches and software updates coming out of CES that add or enhance voice control in many third-party apps.

Developers further invade your living room
While it may be improving, thus far, Google TV has not been a runaway hit. The public has been slow to adopt it, and its reviews have been more bad than good. But that doesn't mean that the idea of apps on your TV is dead in the water. In fact, we think CES 2013 will show us just the opposite, with developers showing off apps for Google TV, as well as for other living room platforms like Samsung Smart TV.

James Martin/CNET

One product that gives us a small taste of things to come in the living room is the YouTube app for Android. With its most recent update, YouTube for Android can now push individual videos and playlists directly to your Google TV box, Airplay-style. But what sets this feature apart from Apple's Airplay is that it allows you to continue browsing and interacting with YouTube while your videos play on your big screen, which means your handheld isn't just mirroring content on your television set. Rather, it's controlling it.

And of course, there are the rumors of Apple developing its own television set, which would certainly come loaded with its own array of software. This, of course, won't be released leading up to or during CES, but the mere fact that the rumors are swirling lend credence to the argument that the living room is the next big domain in developers' crosshairs.

Second Screen apps take off
Speaking of software aimed at your living room, Second Screen apps are already making their way onto people's iPads and tablets, but there's still a lot of room for improvement, and we expect to see more of these apps at CES.

Zeebox gives you lots more information about the show you're watching. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

This year, AMC's "The Walking Dead" and HBO's "Game of Thrones" (among other shows) both started giving viewers interactive content they could view on a tablet while watching new episodes. But there are also apps like Zeebox that give you more info -- like actor bios and related content -- for just about any show on television.

If people get used to having a tablet in their lap in the living room, these apps are going to become a must-have whether they are for specific shows or try to cover all the content. At this early stage, we think this year's CES will be a launching point for more Second Screen apps as part of the flood of new software.

Broadcast television everywhere
It has to happen at some point, right? We admit this one is a bit of a stretch for CES in January, but as our computers, smartphones, tablets, and television screens share more and more content, we have to think it's only a matter of time before we have TV everywhere.

The stream wasn't perfect, but we can't be too far off when television becomes available on your mobile devices. Adobe

We have already seen live streaming video for big events like the 2012 Summer Olympics with NBC's Olympics Live Extra app, though it wasn't ideal. But with Wi-Fi and wireless getting faster than ever, are we really that far from watching television on our devices?

We may not hear more on this at CES, but perhaps some companies will begin hinting at the possibility. It might just be wishful thinking on our part, but you have to admit that TV anywhere would be awesome.

Windows Store apps missing in action
And then there's Windows 8 and its newfangled Start Screen. Be honest: when Windows 8 showed up with its live tiles and confusing RT apps, it wasn't exactly love at first sight for you, was it? Well, unfortunately for Microsoft, neither was it for much of the general public. And it's because of this lackluster reception, that we don't expect any big splashes by third-party developers for the platform. And of course, Microsoft will not be in attendance at CES, which means we won't be hearing about any big updates directly from them.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

The bottom line is, if users aren't excited about the platform, then the developers probably won't be either, which means we probably won't be getting a deluge of game-changing Windows Store apps at CES.