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Everyone at CES is vying for attention

The Leaping Seals Contest at CES Ensues

We’re about to start the big people pile called CES, the Consumer Electronics Show that takes place in Las Vegas every January first thing. It gets the year off with a bang. Call me parochial, but I think of CES as the biggest annual show. Some might nominate Barcelona-based Mobile World Congress in late February or CeBit in Hannover in late March. But because CES is literally the first event after the lengthy Western holidays, it sets the pace for the year. Everyone and anyone in the electronics business turns up, and they all hustle each other like mad for a marathon that can run five days. Analysts like me leap for press and vendor attention like circus seals. At past shows, I’ve tried to keep myself to a modest two or three days just to curtail the damage to my sanity.

But this year will be the first since the late 1990s that I’ve voluntarily abstained from going.

You might ask, why? Why skip the big annual kickoff? Isn’t this when the seed is sown for the year? When deals get struck? When the ring is kissed? When people who work with each other all year long finally meet in the flesh and reaffirm their willingness to do business? All of those things. It is all those things.

And if you know me, you’ll know that I’ve minimized the aggravation by renting a bicycle, bombing around the city from appointment to appointment, pirouetting among the cars as they sit idling their engines in endless lines of traffic, waiting for lights to turn, parking attendants to wave, streams of pedestrians to cross, other vehicles to get out of the friggin way.

I will miss all that, the excitement of the hucksterism, the breathless meetings, the rare, quiet moments in someone’s whisper suite high above the fray at Bellagio, Venetian, or Aria. But I’m getting old, and pedaling around that angry city for the 20th time doesn’t hold the appeal it used to. Yes, the show is great for business development and media contacts, but I noticed in the recent year I couldn’t go that I still got the right calls. In fact, I was in a better position to respond because I was at my desk rather than trying to run my business out of a bicycle seat.

And seeing the stuff live? Well, I guess you have to really love it. When I see new technology, the universe doesn’t actually move for me. I’m fine with high-res pix and video demos.

Then there’s the expense. Vegas is known as a perverse money pump. The locals get it out of you, one way or another. One reason they hate cyclists is we’re not paying by the mile. This past summer, when I started looking at hotels, even the modest ones were through the roof. Perhaps what makes it most annoying is that they use capacity pricing. The same room for which you pay $450 a night during the show (before all the bogus add-ons, like “resort fee” and whatever) goes for a mere $79 one week later. Everything else — airfare, taxi, meals — scales proportionately.

One could look at this highway robbery as a cost of doing business, figure a single good contract will offset the tab, making it all worthwhile. But there comes a tipping point in the value-for-money equation, and I’m there.

On the value side, there’s what you can see — on the floor, in the hotels, zooming around town on wheels.

There’s the macho tour-de-force on the show floor of displays (size, resolution, saturation), phones (thinness, display, features), and computers (thinness, display, flexibility). There are the thousand side shows featuring cases, bags, headphones, and whatnot.

And this will be a banner year for Internet of Things (IoT) “nodes,” like cars, houses, infrastructure. When I started Endpoint Technologies Associates in 2005, individuals got on the Internet pretty much exclusively with PCs. I thought, someday, people will access the Internet all kinds of ways, anticipating by two years the iPhone, which was followed by the iPad, and then all manner of phones, tablets, and convertibles. And then came the bigger connected nodes: the cars, the houses, the cities. My prediction is slowly coming true. And it’s okay. I don’t have to midwife every endpoint offspring.

Other categories promising connected experiences include gaming, virtual reality, sports, fitness, wearables, medical, audio, beacons, drones, lighting, and personal assistants.

Everything is “smart” now.

And, of course, there will be the “innovations,” the products no one thought of, no one thought anyone needed, and no one will remember a year from now. They will have their tiny moment in the Las Vegas sun.

Take for example (selected from pitches in my inbox), the “smart toilet” from TOTO, a self-cleaning number with “Actlight Cleansing Technology.” Or “smart aromatherapy” from AromaCare, a French company touting a smartphone-app-controlled aroma diffuser for better health and well being. And what children’s bathroom would be complete without the wireless “augmented reality toothbrush” from Grush?

Who could miss the “Drone Rodeo,” which its promoters tout as “high-flying fun in the high desert” (perhaps a nod to legalized weed in Nevada)? Well, I, for one. Then there’s Enlaps, which lets any fool take time-lapse video.

There’s tech for babies. And tech for old folks (the Viktor “smart pillow,” for those who don’t speak French).

And for those in between (which includes pretty much the entire CES crowd, there’s always sex, which, like everything else, has gone high tech.

Whatever your beer, they’ve got it here. But not for me. Not this time.

I wish all the attendees, vendors, and Las Vegas hosts a fine show. I’ll be enjoying it from afar.

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Technology Analyst

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