I’m one of the lucky souls who is not staying for the last day and a half of CES. Farewell, ye who will endure to the end of the convention. I’ve posted several entries in response to specific announcements, but as I sit at the airport and enjoy the airport’s free WiFi (yes, free! Viva Las Vegas! Next time you drop a coin in the airport slot machines, know that I appreciate your subsidy), I find myself summing up the experience with a few thoughts:
1. CES was a shadow of its former self. There were empty spots on the show floor, there were very few lines waiting for cabs, buses, even bathrooms. CES didn’t even feel as big as NAB, which might be a slap in the face, depending on who you are. There weren’t even lines for the massage chairs. No, I did not try one. I was too worried someone would take a picture of me looking like this:
2. The dominant theme was the economy. Everything was about value. Yes, TVs were even thinner, they were wireless, they had Internet connectivity, but the real message was how cheap they were going to be. One TV maker didn’t even launch a line they had intended to launch, preferring instead to focus on the value TVs they already have in the market. I guess 30″ is the new 40″. Perhaps the one outsized booth space that didn’t get the message we were in a recession was Samsung’s. See the adjacent video to get some sense, but the video doesn’t do the scale of the booth justice.
3. Some of the most important products at CES aren’t even products. There are two industry groups who had significant presence at CES, though not on the showfloor. They are the DLNA and the DECE. DLNA is the certification body that makes sure TVs, Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, mobile phones, PCs, and printers will all be able to speak to each other, share content, and create a digital home that has no boundaries. DLNA has mostly been a great idea until this CES where they showed up with a list of hundreds of devices that are now DLNA certified. I got to walk through an example of picking up a Nokia phone; using it to browse the music, video, and photos on a media server across the room; then playing a video on a DLNA TV. It works, folks. The only problem is that other than the content you have ripped from your DVDs (illegally), the likelihood that you’ll have much to watch across the network is slim. That’s where DECE comes in. This group just formed last Fall and brings hardware makers, retailers, and content producers together to create a standard for digital media that would allow you to buy something on any device and automatically receive rights to watch it on any other device you own. Unlike most industry-led schemes for media distribution, this one actually makes consumer sense. These are two initiatives that I’m rooting for.
4. There were a few fun surprises. One of my favorite surprises was the disappearing display that is hidden inside a mirror. See the video below to see it (and me in the mirror, unfortunately). Nice touch, probably not a mainstream device, however.
The other thing I saw worth noting was this array of small “micro-projectors” which is a new category that we’re likely to see grow over time. These devices (which they wouldn’t let me take pictures of in action, but here’s the display case of devices turned off) project TV-sized images onto walls from unbelievably small gadgets. This company, Butterfly Technologies, has made a cell phone that can project images. Certainly something business people might find interesting. But I’m curious to see what happens in a few years when these are as cheap to include in devices as digital cameras are. Do we all have projectors embedded into any of our devices so we can easily show the pictures of our trip to CES with our friends?
5. Vegas is still surreal. I have a few things on my list here. First, were the large ads in the airport or atop the cabs promoting a place called The Gun Store. The purpose of this store, other than to sell guns, is to let you pay to shoot guns. Machine guns, hand guns, whatever floats your boat. Or sinks it. Second, the large ad in the airport that showed a single glass of water and a lengthy explanation of why waiters in restaurants might not provide water automatically. Because the good people of Vegas are trying to conserve water. After all, they live in a desert. Of course, all it takes is a walk down the strip or through a casino or even a ride past the golf course behind the strip to see the fountains too numerous to count. I’m sure glad they’re saving water by denying me a glass of it. Third, I had the misfortune of walking down the Venetian halls when the adult film industry convention was closing down for the night. It was relatively terrifying to see the kinds of people coming out of that convention. This is a family show, so I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that all the innocent bystanders like myself were turning to each other to spontaneously remark, “Only in Vegas.”