There is a palpable sense of what can only be described as "Meh" coming out of this year's Consumer Electronics Show.
You would think that, in a world that's been transformed by HDTV (62 percent of us own one), smartphones (58 percent of us own one), and tablets (1 in 4 of us own one), not to mention Facebook (more than a billion of us use it), some of us would care more about the newest and grooviest of consumer toys and gadgets.
But that's the thing. Most of us have these things. We also have digital cameras. Amazon's top-selling digital camera, the Canon PowerShot A2300 IS costs less than $80 and has a 16 megapixel resolution. No one needs a 16 megapixel resolution. Not even spy satellites.
Sure, the Wii U just came out, but other than Nintendo fanboys, no one cares. Next year, we might see a new Playstation and Xbox, but not this year. This year, we're decades (at least in dog years) into the current console generation and even the most exciting and amazing games are into their third or fourth sequel.
And then there's this whole cloud thing. As ZDNet's Larry Dignan said, "It's not easy going cloud," especially if your job is to sell things that come in physical boxes.
Software packages have given way to apps, and these are downloaded and installed with a one-finger tap. No one goes to CES to see apps. Many specialized home gadgets, like personal servers, have given way to cloud storage, like the services offered by Amazon and Google and Apple and Microsoft.
Windows 8 is truly exciting (yes, it actually is), but the problem with the Windows 8 tablets is (a) some of them run the crippled Windows 8 RT, and (b) they're impossible to distinguish from each other.
On Sunday, I picked on the announcement of the Vizio Tablet PC. It's a PC that's a tablet that runs Windows 8. It's no more exciting than the Asus Windows 8 tablet or the Gigabyte Windows 8 tablet. They all look like tablets that run Windows 8. They're nice (I'm sure), but they're not exactly something to get all sweaty over.
Here's the thing, and I hate to even bring it up. Think about this for a second.
Who's the world's most successful consumer electronics company? Yeah, if you mentioned Apple, you'd be pretty much right (there's some executive at Samsung right now with a fist in the air, yelling "Damn you, Apple!").
Okay, let's try a related question: what consumer electronics company generates enormous buzz when its new products come out? Sigh. Apple, of course.
Ready for the third question? Here it is. What well-known consumer electronics behemoth didn't bother to show at the Consumer Electronics Show? Yep, that'd be Apple.
So let's run down the meh, shall we? We all (or anyone who would care about CES, anyway) already own or four tablets, smartphones, HDTVs, yada yada yada. The new stuff that's coming out is already blurring together into a mass mulch of meh. On top of that, the most successful consumer electronics company, the consumer electronics company that generates the most buzz, isn't at the Consumer Electronics Show.
If CES is seeming like a giant disconnect this year, that's because it is.
We love us our consumer electronics. Truly, we do. But there comes a point where we hit saturation (my wife and I counted last night, and between smartphones and tablets and ebook readers, we have something like seven teeny-tiny screens scattered just in our bedroom -- and that doesn't count my iPhone pico projector).
Consumer electronics companies are desperately trying to come up with something new that we all just have to buy, but as Jason Perlow explores, technologies like 4K ultra-high definition televisions are nothing but a CES wet dream.
We have too much crap. We're in a dull, dismal economy. Most of us already have one of this and two of that and four of that other thing. New introductions already seem like also-rans after just a day. And there's no buzz. Worse, even Apple is starting to seem boring. They've already shot their wad and we're all just wondering what new thrill they can offer us.
The buzz is dead.
This year's CES is pretty much a buzzkill.
But hey, there's E3 this summer, right? Right? Anyone? Ferris?