Issue: March/April 2012
With fewer business reasons to attend the Consumer Electronics Show, our
resident entrepreneur skips this year’s event — but reviews it anyway.
It was painful, but inevitable, when the Computer Dealers Exposition (COMDEX) dwindled and was replaced by the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) as the largest annual gathering of geeks in the world.
Instead of trying out new hardware, software and peripherals that might influence our company’s bottom line, we began to see robot vacuum cleaners, home appliances with “high-tech” modifications (my coffee maker already has a timer. It doesn’t need to be on the network!) and enough cutesy cases for your iPhone and other devices to make you pine for a rotary phone on a land line.
I miss the major announcements of past Consumer Electronics Shows like the VCR (1970), camcorder (1981), DVD (1996), HDTV (1998) and Blu-ray disc (2003).
“From one viewpoint, a lot of the consumer electronics industry has turned into an accessories aftermarket for Apple products,” Marty Winston, editor of the Novelty, Ohio-based Newstips Bulletin.
Show highlights have gone from a chance to see Bill Gates, Andy Grove, Larry Ellison and other industry visionaries to lining up to see paid product shills Justin Bieber, LL Cool J, Justin Timberlake and someone called Snooki.
The Consumer Electronics Association sponsors the show and released that the 2012 International CES had more exhibitors (3,100) and attendees (153,000) than any other CES in the 44-year history of the event.
Bob Leon, of Cleveland’s Colortone Staging & Rentals, produces ShowStoppers, a three-hour, invitation-only media event at CES where bloggers, journalists and analysts get hands-on demos of the newest tablets, phones, GPS devices, apps, home theaters and in-vehicle devices.
“It was simply our largest event ever,” he says. “Over 2,500 in the room and just under 140 sponsors.”
There was “a lot of consumer electronics but auto companies — think Ford SYNC — are gaining traction,” he says.
I skipped CES this year. Between the lack of business IT focus and the availability of virtual demos, it seemed like the thing to do. I missed the trek to Las Vegas and seeing whatever a “Snooki” is, but I was able to get a sense of the industry trends and coolest devices and technologies remotely. Plus this January’s warmer weather didn’t mandate a cabin fever road trip.
I wasn’t alone in skipping CES.
Cleveland’s Tremont Electric, which makes a backup battery charger that uses your kinetic energy for hand-held electronics, skipped CES as well. Its nPower PEG device, which can be carried in a backpack, briefcase or purse and continuously tops-off its internal battery, was named “one of the coolest gadgets” at CES 2011. But with a lack of green consumer electronics at the show, founder & CEO Aaron LeMieux decided to stay home.
“We would love to be at CES 2012, but instead we are spending the limited resources we have to improve this technology,” he says. “We have soldiers defending America who rely on us, explorers in the wilderness who never step onto the trail without us -- they are our priority, and we won’t let them down.”
In November 2011, Tremont Electric partnered with Ohio-based contract manufacturer Delta Systems to redesign the PEG from the ground up. They work with the U.S. Army to test and improve the technology. The new nPower PEG contains a 2000mAh battery, which is double the capacity of the previous PEG’s battery. (Look for the new PEG later this spring, direct from Tremont Electric and through nPowerPEG.com for $169.99.)
What did those who journeyed to CES get to see?
The keynote addresses (which you can view online) are always a good indicator of the state of the industry. Intel’s Paul Otellini spoke but other keynotes featured leaders of Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Verizon, Hyundai, Qualcomm and the like, which reinforces the move toward the consumerization of IT.
This was Microsoft’s last year at CES and Steve Ballmer’s last keynote. The CES anchor cited that the show no longer fits Microsoft’s needs and its timing does not always mesh with the company’s product announcements. With more than 1.3 billion computers run on Windows, including about 500 million on Windows 7, Ballmer touted Windows Phone, Xbox, Office 365 and other expected technologies.
The Windows 8 previews are particularly interesting because of the complete revamping of the user interface, called Metro. The Metro interface is intended to offer one common experience across PCs, tablets, phones, games, music and social networking. As a business user, I sure hope that Microsoft offers a “classic” mode for the interface. When thousands of people freak out if a rarely used menu item is slightly moved in Microsoft Word, how will they react to a Windows that has no Start button and the interface resembles a phone more than their familiar desktop landscape?
You can find a plethora of coverage on the 20,000 new products launched at CES online: I admit I would like to play with Cubelets from Modular Robotics. Snap the magnetic blocks (each with their own functionality) together to make your own robots without programming or wires.
Huge displays, 3D and every type of phone, tablet and ultrabook device and accessory imaginable make it fun to walk through the show aisles but not worth a trip bent on improving one’s business IT.
Columnist Paul Thurrott called CES a “complete waste of time.” Even the usually concurrent Adult Entertainment show seems to have suffered from, uh, shrinkage, filling far less space.
At least I didn’t get snookered (Snookied?) into making the trip this year.
Great Lakes Geek Dan Hanson (email@example.com) expects he will again be drawn to attend future tech shows. Where else is his Microsoft Bob T-shirt so appreciated?
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