The keynote will lead off the first in-person CES since January 2020.
The president of Samsung's visual display business will deliver the preshow keynote at CES 2022, hinting that the largest tech conference of the year could begin with Samsung's perspective on sustainability in the tech industry and possibly updates about its TV and display technologies. The event will be part of the lead up to the annual tech show, which returns to the Las Vegas Convention Center for the first time since the COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020.
Samsung's Jong-Hee Han will give the address on Jan. 4 before the show begins on Jan. 5, the Consumer Technology Association announced on Wednesday. The CTA, which runs CES, hasn't revealed much about what the keynote will entail, other than saying it will discuss sustainability and the importance of addressing climate change. "The keynote is a call to action to mitigate climate change and the company will show how everyone can do their part in building a sustainable planet," the CTA said in a press release.
It would be the latest instance of a major tech company highlighting the issue of climate change. Amazon, for example, pledged in 2019 to become carbon neutral by 2040, and Google recently added tools to Maps to help people travel more sustainably. Both Apple and Samsung stopped including wired headphones and in-box chargers with their smartphones to make their packaging more sustainable.
The CES opening keynote usually sets the stage for the major themes that permeate the conference. Last year, for example, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg delivered the CES opening keynote to discuss 5G, coming just months after the first 5G iPhones launched. But Samsung's preshow keynote is separate from the CES 2022 opening keynote, which is being delivered by General Motors CEO Mary Barra.
The decision to appoint Samsung's display chief as a CES keynote speaker may also hint that display tech could be a major focus for the company at CES 2022. That wouldn't be a surprise since TVs are usually a big deal at CES, with most of the major manufacturers expected to announce the highlights of their 2022 lineups. Recent trends point to larger screen sizes -- big, expensive TVs are selling at record levels so far in 2021 -- and more affordable TVs with 8K resolution, despite the fact that basically no 8K TV shows or movies are available yet. As the world's largest TV-maker and biggest proponent of 8K, Samsung will likely make a big splash again at CES.
As for what Samsung could announce, one potential possibility is an announcement about a new kind of TV. In October 2019, Samsung Display announced an $11 billion investment in a factory to make TVs using a new screen technology called QD Display.
The technology is a hybrid of OLED and QLED, playing to the strengths of both technologies -- providing better contrast, brightness and color than either. TVs that use organic light-emitting diode screens produce the best picture quality currently available, but for now only LG Display can produce them. TVs that use Samsung's QD Display would challenge OLED and potentially represent the next step in TV picture quality.
Another possibility is a more affordable version of MicroLED, yet another new display tech that Samsung has shown at previous CES events. It's currently available in massive sizes and prices, with a 110-inch model selling for $156,000. MicroLED displays can get brighter than OLED with similar contrast and color, but the challenge so far has been getting their pixels small enough to create affordable, living-room-sized TVs.
Samsung also recently detailed its vision for the connected home during its annual developer conference in October. During that event, Samsung revealed that in 2022 its SmartThings platform will support the Matter standard, a joint effort by tech giants like Apple, Samsung, Google and Amazon to make smart devices work more easily together in the home. We'll probably hear more about how Samsung's TV lineup fits into this vision at CES 2022.
CNET's David Katzmaier contributed to this report.