Upcoming Conference – CES

by Dave Michels

In January I will be attending CES. It’s been a while since I’ve been to one. The last time I attended the big new thing was DVD players – probably around 93.

But all this talk about consumerization of IT – it seems like a logical place to be. Despite its reputation, CES is not really the upcoming consumer products. It is rapidly becoming more of a show of possibilities – where vendors test ideas. It’s a good test – to rise above the noise takes a strong message. A good example is MagicJack’s femtocell product from two years ago.  Exactly what happened is not public, but presumably YMAX (MagicJack parent) determined that there was both demand and a ton of legal barriers. The product never came to be. More and more, its like those concept cars at car shows – really cool – but not for sale. I’m still looking for that HP Slate Ballmer showed off last year. Of course, all the new stuff is there too.

At its core, CES was the place for electronics retailers to determine which items to sell on their shelves. But that’s a small part of the show now. For one, there are not that many electronics dealers left. Amazon and Walmart probably don’t even walk the show. But the event has grown into so much more  – its a smorgasbord of devices, products, and services of anything that takes a battery, disc, USB, or LCD, or installed on something that does. For the most part, companies know if they are consumer or business focused – such as Avaya or Sony. But lots of companies are stuck in the middle serving both camps – wireless products and carriers, the Apple ecosystem, security systems, Logitech, Plantronics, Linksys, Dell, etc.

CES has been going strong for decades. Impressive really. Vendors want strong shows to justify their participation, but once shows get too strong, the big vendors sometimes conspire against it. Apple pulled out a few years ago. However, there is more Apple related products at CES than MacWorld. Microsoft says this will be its last big appearance. As more and more consumer services are sold directly(as apps) – I wonder how much longer CES will last.

I’ll be primarily looking for enterprise related things. More and more these vendors don’t market to business users any more. Take Skype for instance – last year at Enterprise Connect – David Gurle asked the business focused audience to raise their hand if they use Skype for work related purposes: a large percentage did. Skype now only positions itself as a consumer service. There will probably be some tablets, but I expect to see Android expand into entirely new product categories. I’m a bit interested in this new wave of personal tech – clothing, jewelry, wearable camcorders, etc – I think they will impact future collaboration and presence solutions. Who cares that Bob is online, I want to know his heart rate.  Seriously, the amount of information we humans can now electronically generate is staggering and still increasing.  I expect to see lots of video devices too from doorbells to dashboards.

I will also be checking out Eureka Park which features start-ups separated into 25 different TechZones. This is new at CES, yet it will feature 94 companies. I wonder if any are suitable for the Innovation Showcase I’m directing at Enterprise Connect. The big difference of course is Eureka Park is an exhibit area whereas Innovation Showcase it an accomplishment of business communications related innovative break-throughs.

On the pure consumer level, I am a bit interested in Internet television. I have a Boxee  Box which is pretty good, but it doesn’t do it all. DISH and Blockbuster are trying to take advantage of Netflix’s mistakes, but the ones to watch are Comcast, Apple, HBO, and Google. But DISH is an interesting company – they want to partner with AT&T, T-Mobile, HBO, and take on Netflix. Expect more drama than usual in TV entertainment. As for the other consumer stuff, fortunately, I will be walking part of the show with local friend/celebrity/ mentor Dave Taylor who sees consumer goods with a critical eye.

Should be a fun event. If you are aware of any business related items at the show that I should be looking for, let me know. This is important because I don’t think it is possible to see the whole show – you have to be on a mission. It has venues throughout Las Vegas.