CES 2012: what I learned, why I'm not going back

CES 2012: what I learned, why I'm not going back

Summary: I'm back from Las Vegas with a full notebook and my traditional case of the CES flu. Here's what I saw and why I'm not going back.

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I spent the last week surrounded by geeks. Crammed into the Las Vegas Monorail, slammed around in the backs of cabs on drives named after Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis and Wayne Newton, pushed along through a sea of humanity in the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center, breathing secondhand smoke.

Yeah, I'm back from CES.

You'll notice that I didn't file a single story about a CES product or event while I was there. That was deliberate.

No offense to my news-gathering colleagues, but the current news value of most of the products shown at the 2012 International CES (as the show's promoters insist that it be officially called, like that's gonna happen) was near zero. As history shows, some of those engineering prototypes and pre-production sample hardware will never see the light of day or will quickly flop in the marketplace and disappear quietly.

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You wouldn't know that from the sheer number of reporters and bloggers at the show, however. If you were trying to aggregate that stuff in an RSS feed or a Twitter list, I feel your pain. The ratio of noise to signal was overwhelming.

This is nothing new.

I started my editorial career in the trade magazine industry decades ago. I was the most junior of editors on a tiny staff that churned out monthly and bimonthly magazines aimed at professionals in specialized industries. The "news" sections of those magazines were literally made up of rewritten press releases. It was cheap content, and it was useful as a direct pipeline between product manufacturers and readers who didn't otherwise have an easy way to connect.

The current overload in tech blogging reminds me of those days. You have a small number of high-traffic websites and well-known blogs of varying quality, and then a gazillion smaller satellite websites and blogs all posting insane numbers of reports, dutifully reposting the 21st century equivalents of press releases, free of any kind of critical analysis.

Filtering through that noise level to find the small bits of interesting writing and reporting is difficult. Way too difficult for me, in fact, which is why I didn't even bother with a CES-focused news feed last week. I saw what I wanted to see, and I'm now catching up on the coverage I missed last week.

I actually did see a few interesting products at CES, which I'll be writing about in short order. But my primary goal was to walk the floors and see which technologies have the most support, as measured by marketing dollars and public messaging, and to determine which companies know what they're doing and which ones are struggling to find their way.

CES is an incomplete picture, of course, especially when the largest consumer electronics company in the world, Apple, is represented exclusively by its enormous ecosystem of apps and accessories.

But after all that walking and meeting and conversing, I came away with some valuable data points and some pointers to unmistakable trends. I will write about those over the next few weeks, after the CES noise level dies down.

I also came back with lots of good memories from visits with friends and colleagues.

Oh, and the CES flu.

Now I remember why I skipped CES for the past two years. Next year, I'll watch CES from a distance. Is is too early to book flights to Hawaii?

Topics: Software Development, Browser

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56 comments
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  • I hope youre not expecting any sympathy. Some of us would have loved a

    week in vegas. Youll be back. Look forward to hearing what did interest you.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Las Vegas is only good for about two days

      @Johnny Vegas ... after that you're overstimulated. You can only eat so much cheesecake, you can only enjoy so much Vegas.
      HollywoodDog
      • RE: CES 2012: what I learned, why I'm not going back

        @HollywoodDog
        Try 20 minutes
        tech_walker
    • RE: CES 2012: what I learned, why I'm not going back

      @Johnny Vegas The best thing that I saw at ces show an tablet convertible laptop from lenovo check it: http://www.technologyfazer.com/lenovos-ideapad-yoga-runs-windows-8.html
      nomikhokher
    • RE: CES 2012: what I learned, why I'm not going back

      @Johnny Vegas

      Wouldn't go there if you paid me.
      NoAxToGrind
  • RE: CES 2012: what I learned, why I'm not going back

    As someone who was reading the Gizmodos and Engadgets of the world this past week, I can agree that nothing stood out to me as particularly exciting. Things are faster, thinner, and are more energy efficient. What else is new? Probably the most disappointing part of it was MS's complete snoozer of a keynote. That, more than anything, was the best signal that CES has perhaps outlived its usefulness.
    Resplendent
    • Actually .... all to the contrary

      @Resplendent All the "new" stuff that I saw on the "Gizmodos and Engadgets" was ridiculously huge and heavy prototypes. The rest were nothing but the same or clones of products already on the market.
      wackoae
    • RE: CES 2012: what I learned, why I'm not going back

      @Resplendent When was the last time it wasn't a snoozer.
      tech_walker
    • I had read that they keynote was the best part

      @Resplendent
      of CES this year.
      Tim Cook
  • Now that you have an opening on your dance card ...

    Might I suggest:

    http://www.yapcna.org/perl-tng
    Yet Another Perl Conference : North America - Madison, Wisconsin - June 13-15, 2012

    Why? Perl runs on nearly every operating system available, including Windows and Mac OS X. Perl connects to pretty much any database, including Microsoft SQL Server.

    And, please, let us all know how it goes.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Anyone who likes Perl

      @Rabid Howler Monkey
      Can't be that bad. Rabid Howler Monkey is officially my Friend.
      Dietrich T. Schmitz *Your
    • RE: CES 2012: what I learned, why I'm not going back

      @Rabid Howler Monkey
      perl needs buzz marketing?
      DannyO_0x98
      • RE: CES 2012: what I learned, why I'm not going back

        @DannyO_0x98 No, it doesn't (and it isn't). Strictly an FYI for Ed.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Perl is a scripting language for masochists

      @Rabid Howler Monkey It is the only language in where the original developer actually has to spend time trying to figure out what he/she was attempting to do when he wrote the code and now needs to fix or add something.
      wackoae
  • Ah why did they axe the endoscopy discussion?

    What a hoot! Shame on you ZDN mods. That was the best laugh of the day. :p
    klumper
  • RE: CES 2012: what I learned, why I'm not going back

    Ed, we're certainly sorry you won't be joining us for the 2013 CES.

    We're also sorry, and candidly a bit perplexed, that you were unable to find a single story worth writing while at CES. By contrast, your colleagues at CNET, more than 50 of whom covered the show, found hundreds of stories, interviews, blogs and other content worth writing during the show. Indeed, the more than 5,000 reporters who attended CES this year filed thousands of stories about what was, we now know, the largest and most innovative CES in history.

    But you are certainly entitled to your own, rather unique, position that not a single product introduction or event on a show floor of more than 3,100 technology companies at CES was worth writing about. I hope your employer still reimburses you for your trip notwithstanding that you didn't file anything!

    Jason Oxman
    SVP, Industry Affairs
    Consumer Electronics Association
    joxman
    • RE: CES 2012: what I learned, why I'm not going back

      [b]I hope your employer still reimburses you for your trip notwithstanding that you didn't file anything![/b]

      @joxman Ed is a freelancer and is self-employed. He wasted his own money to find nothing to write about at CES. :)
      jperlow
      • Old and Jaded.

        @jperlow---Unfortunately, tho' I enjoy most of your posts, you come across this time around as old, and jaded. <br>Sounds like a younger Turk's game.<br>As Oxman says, surely, despite the very real irritants, any and all downside, there was a plenty to write about. I know, I read some of the articles with real interest.
        And what Oxman and I meant, that you countered, is writing 'while at CES' itself. We both know you said you'd write afterward.
        PreachJohn
    • So, if you're a Senior VP, you don't have to read?

      @joxman <br><br>With all due respect, Mr. Oxman, maybe you could get one of your junior staffers to read my post and give an executive summary to you.<br><br>I am delighted that you have given me your blessing to have my own opinion. However, I never said, as you summarize, that "not a single product introduction or event ... at CES was worth writing about."<br><br>In fact, I said exactly the opposite. Here, have your assistant read this to you, very slowly:<br><br>"I actually did see a few interesting products at CES, which I'll be writing about in short order. But my primary goal was to walk the floors and see which technologies have the most support, as measured by marketing dollars and public messaging, and to determine which companies know what they're doing and which ones are struggling to find their way.<br> <br>[...]<br> <br>[A]fter all that walking and meeting and conversing, I came away with some valuable data points and some pointers to unmistakable trends. I will write about those over the next few weeks, after the CES noise level dies down."<br><br>I still think CES is valuable. I am glad that CNET and other companies are covering it. But the noise level is too high for me, and I'll be spending my travel budget elsewhere next year. And as Jason noted above, that was my travel budget. I paid for my own airfare, hotel, transportation, and meals.<br><br>Unlike you, obviously.
      Ed Bott
    • RE: CES 2012: what I learned, why I'm not going back

      @joxman From the article:<br>"The ratio of noise to signal was overwhelming.<br><br>Apparently, Microsoft feels the same way. High noise levels require companies to produce truly revolutionary products, otherwise one's products will not reach above the noise and be recognized as a signals. Producing truly revolutionary products requires not only innovation, but the ability to recognize innovation and quickly capitalize (or follow-through) on innovation.<br><br>Microsoft has become, largely, a legacy business and, with few exceptions, is following paths forged by other companies. Microsoft was caught flat-footed by Linux-based netbooks with Windows Vista and had to resort to using Windows XP Home (at or below cost) until Vista could be retooled as Windows 7. Similarly, Microsoft was caught flat-footed by Apple's iPhone and was late to market with Windows Phone 7. They were caught flat-footed by Apple's iPad with Windows 7 and, thus, the mad dash to Windows 8 and ARM architecture. With Windows 8 in the works, Barnes & Noble and Amazon have captured the 7-inch form factor tablet market with their Android derivatives. Then there is Microsoft jumping on the Hadoop bandwagon with the Azure platform only to find that they have boxed themselves into a corner with their various Linux shenanigans. Their customers, apparently even if they are using SLES, have to roll their own Linux images for Azure. Thus, Amazon EC2 already has a jump on Microsoft in the Cloud.<br><br>It seems that Microsoft is at a place that IBM found itself in the early 1990s. There has been much recent speculation about whether another figure like Steve Jobs will rise up again in the tech sector. One also wonders whether another figure like Lou Gerstner of IBM fame will find his (or her) way to Microsoft to forge a path into the future.
      Rabid Howler Monkey