CES 2012

by Dave Michels

What a ridiculous show.

The show is just too big. They say only Vegas can handle a show this big, but it can’t. Vegas has the capacity in conference and hotel space, but once the show expands into multiple locations the weak link becomes apparent: transportation. They were running large buses full time between The Venitian and the convention center (exhibits were at both locations). Still, the bus had 30 minute lines, and it takes the bus about 20 minutes to drive about 3 miles. Don’t even think about taking a taxi – taxi lines were ridiculous at all times of the day for the whole week.

Why is the show so big? The economy is weak, and there were no big announcements or break throughs this year. Apple is already out and Microsoft is making it their last year. In other words, it could have been much bigger. The reason it is so big is because electronics are expanding into every aspect of our lives. You can’t think of consumer electronics as what you might find in a Best Buy, it is much broader. They literally had gadgets for those that are not born yet– and services for after-life (AssetLock, Dead Man’s Switch, Death Switch. and Eternity Message). Products range from gadgets to cars, from mobile phones to massage chairs, from solar panels to toilets to windows. As electronics continue to get cheaper – they will continue to spread – the show will continue to grow unless purposely constrained as I think it should be.  

I was primarily walking the show in search of enterprise solutions. yes, I know it was the CONSUMER electronics show, but I also know and understand consumerization of IT, and it all starts with consumer class products sold directly to consumers. They were somewhat hidden, but I found plenty.

Although CES is an annual show, its shelf life is short. So much of CES is about today – now. Consider the mobile phone space – it will be a new ballgame in a month, not to mention the Mobile World Congress is an even bigger show for smartphones. Last year at CES – the big vendor to watch was Skype. Skype was pretty silent this year. I was expecting Microsoft to announce an Xbox/Kinect client for Skype – but nothing. Skype really has become boring. There were plenty of announcements, but Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft were all pretty quiet – they don’t want to compete for attention in this noisy environment.

So, back away from the short shelf life announcements – let me focus instead on some trends I think are important.

  • Power: Power is moving from an annoyance to a really big topic. It was annoying when the cell phone could not last a whole day – but now that’s is also our navigator, travel coordinator, email, camera, messaging device, link to social networking, AND a phone – it is really annoying. In addition to power outlet stalkers in the airports and CES hallways, the booths were filled with various power solutions ranging from USB power strips to fuel cells. Lots of large batteries designed to charge smartphones. The reality is we need a major breakthrough in battery power – I suspect it will come soon.
  • SmartPhone isn’t a good description: The portable super computer in your pocket is affectionately called a phone – but the phone part is less and less important. The portable device is expanding into so many roles – there are apps to use while walking, driving, sleeping, cooking, running, working, crapping, sailing, biking, and eating. As a result, the devices and accessories for the smartphone are multiplying to a staggering number. I was particularly impressed with mouting options for the smartphone – helmet mounts, chest mounts, bike mounts, car mounts – whatever tool you might use in your daily life – there is probably a way to mount a smartphone to it.
  • Fitness: Electronics are invading the gym – or at least the motivation behind the gym. Of course this includes smartphones (things like blood pressure cuff add-ons), but it was even beyond the smartphone. Smart scales with wifi, sensor patches, heart rate watches, there was even a headset that tracks heart rate and perspiration rate. I was expecting more sensor clothing, maybe next year.

When I take off my analytical enterprise hat – there were quite a few products that jumped out at me – I must haves. I think DISH won the TV category – their new Hopper and Joey solution seems brilliant to me. I’ve been a DISH customer since they started back in the early 90s. The Hopper can record up to 6 shows at once – has a huge 2 TB disk drive to hold a full week’s worth of programming, a new GUI to manage and organize all that content, and a significantly improved solution for multi room distribution (Joey) that uses good ol co-ax.

I do like the options that turn the TV into a video calling device. Samsung sells two – an addon (InTouch) and a built in camera on some versions. Also check out Biscotti, for $199, you get free video calling to Biscotti and Google users. There was lots of 3D television, but I just don’t by it. I just watched Hugo in the theaters and felt that the 3D was, if anything, a detractor. It seems like such a gimmick to me – and without any type of standards, a total waste of time and money. Cameras such as the Nikon 1 -smaller than SLRs with interchangeable lenses were popular.

Despite all the noise and clutter – I did find some interesting items. I posted my photo album here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmichels/sets/72157628872801875/

I also posted two videos:

The ION Guitar apprentice intrigues me – check out the demo here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7-mszOS3ro&feature=youtu.be

I also posted this sound demonstration by Westone. Actually, a questionable  demonstration to show the quality of a headset – but very impressive technology. They had a live band playing electric instruments. Other than the singer, they didn’t make much noise. You have to put on the headsets to hear the music. I wish I had recorded a longer video, but I had no idea if I had the earbuds up against the camera’s microphone was working effectively. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gKmTRTVXhg&feature=youtu.be