Winter CES 2013 hasn't even started, but I'm already over it

Winter CES 2013 hasn't even started, but I'm already over it

Summary: Seriously, why do we even care about the Consumer Electronics Show anymore?


A New Year begins, and with it goes the annual migration of the technorati to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Bring your comfy shoes, because that's one big show floor, folks.

Well, I ain't going there. The first reason being is I have a day job, and the second is that CES is a waste of anyone's time who is going there.

I'll recap this show for you so you don't have to read the hundreds of articles that are going to be written this week.

There will be many Android tablets and smartphones. There will be many smartphone accessories. There will be lots of PCs. There will be every type of Internet-connected single purpose or highly specialized gadget you can think of. There will be many digital cameras. There will be more HDTV sets than you can shake a stick at. There will be all kinds of video games being shown in various stages of development.

And guess what, more than half of these products won't actually materialize. Because at the end of the day, the large brick and mortar and online retailers are the ones who really control the consumer electronics industry.

NOT the consumers.

Also Read: The Last CES, Gadget Fatigue Forebodes Industry Consolidation

Well, I digress. The dynamic is different than it used to be. Devices and products have become highly commoditized and very similar as well as converged in terms of function. At the same time, the number of retailers that are still able to take risks with diverse inventory in the channel have shrunken tremendously.

The economy sucks, folks.

So what we have left is the few remaining big box stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart and discount clubs like COSTCO that can distribute these electronics in the brick and mortar space, and then the big online e-tailers like Amazon.

All in all, there are maybe a dozen major businesses that will sell most of the consumer electronics in the United States, that's excepting of course Apple, which is an entity onto itself and isn't represented at CES, and is the 800-pound gorilla in consumer electronics.

[Yes, I'm aware Microsoft isn't represented at CES either.]

Whatever Apple comes out with is going to appear after CES, and by the time any of these vendors have products being shown in Vegas actually materialize, they'll be re-evaluating whether or not to release something because Apple will have one-upped them and have developed something in total secrecy.

Oh yeah, the big box retailers. Their representatives may be going to the show to observe what actually attracts attention and may have slipped off their radar, but they have already had private audiences with the various manufacturers (and Apple) long before CES, and their volume buyers have a pretty good idea of what they are going to move this year anyway.

And all those smartphones and tablets? Your wireless carrier will be picking and choosing from a select group of stuff. Maybe 10 percent of those phones and tablets you see in Vegas might end up at AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. If that.

So unless it has really mass-market potential and isn't a "me too", you'll never see it come to light. Because if anything defines the electronics industry right now, it is not product diversity. CES 2013 is an illusion, a "Hunger Games" with few surviving winners.

The signal to noise ratio on innovation is so low, that I've got a much better chance of discovering an alien planet with my own makeshift radio telescope using a Pringles Wi-Fi antenna and my grandfather's old Grundig shortwave than finding a unique product at this stupid show.

CES? Don't waste my freaking time.

Topics: CES, Apple, Smartphones, Tablets, PCs


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • CES 2013

    I am guessing you don't enjoy actually going to vegas, or maybe you have to pay for it, for me it is awesome b/c I am a student who gets to go for free to vegas as a consultant. If I had to pay for any part of the trip, i wouldn't go b/c Vegas is expensive, maybe this is your excuse. However CES is more about being there than actually seeing anything new. Apple, lol, they can develop all they like however they still depend on large chip makers who they keep making enemies with, just like in the component industry you can tell by large chip vendor and pcb vendor orders exactly what is being developed. CES is fun, that is what it is about, the important tech will already be announced before CES or after. However you also forget 1 HUGE advancement for PC, tablets, and all. Haswell will be demoed and they will allow big media to do bencmarks on their systems and post. I like PC components, and while I like Computex and IDF the most, CES is pretty cool too if you are in the know..

    Apple TV?? lol, Iphone 6? no. a new ipad? You gotta admit they are running out of redundant devices to develop, however their cult is strong. Hail Apple.
    • Ding ding ding

      "I am guessing you don't enjoy actually going to vegas"
    • "CES is more about being there than actually seeing anything new"???

      "However CES is more about being there than actually seeing anything new"???

      I think you just made Jason's entire point (aside from not enjoying going to Vegas)... Which I understand... Jason is a family man, probably not a gambling addict, and is not going to Vegas to drop a grand+ on a hooker... He has been there done that enough to know that Vegas is a sad playground for the desperate, brain damaged, and autistic...

      I think I can argue the opposite of your point... I think CES used to be about being there, just like MacWorld used to be about being there, just like comic-con and trekie conventions... There used to be intense excitement and buzz and it was a place you could go to consort with the elite of the industry. It used to be the place you had to attend in order to be "in the know". It used to be a place where enthusiasts went to rub elbows with other enthusiast and network talent and ideas. If you were there, there was a very good chance you were a diehard fan and knew enough to hold a decent conversation. If you were there it was because you also had something to share and contribute. Not so much anymore.

      No one is quite sure as to if it was the media and posers getting a hold of them or they just got old and stagnant and it was time to move on. They seemed to be a climax of creativity and enthusiasm that came (pun intended) at a time when fans felt a mysterious force pull them all together for a gathering to fight for the prize (bragging rights among fans). Then the media and the posers started showing up and it completely harshed the high. Regardless of what it was, they are now places the media flock too in a desperate attempt to capture some of the magic they used to hold. But sadly all that magic is long gone and the only thing left is the hollow commercial desperation of the has-beens and wannabees. Sadly, "cool" left the building several years ago and there isn't even a trace of fairy dust left on the floor.

      The only experience left is paying way too much to experience a painfully crowded and lame commercial. It has become a place where the desperate and needy go to try to feed off the creativity and innovations of others. And like emotional vampires, they suck the life and fun out of anything they come close to. Who will be attending CES 2013??? The same clueless losers that attended CES 2012. But this year, even the posers, losers, and media will have the same thought that it all seems stagnant and old.
  • Grundig

    Jason, don't be so pessimistic. That Grundig radio of your grandfather might just do the trick.

    I think CES might have a surprise or two but I believe Samsung might be more willing to show the Galaxy 4 at the Barcelona Mobile World Conference than they would be at CES but maybe they might make an exception. Personally what I'd like to see at the show would be more high definition monitors at 2560 × 1440 with a far lower price point. That would be a surprise worth attendance but I'm just dreaming because it won't happen.
    • The Grundig...

      Will still be running long after CES is dead and buried.
  • Perhaps

    Perhaps it's time for you to get a new job.
    Oh, and I assume you will stop reporting about these products you so disdain when their companies actually announce them.
    Good luck filling your column quota without being able to use all of the android phones and tablets that you usually use.
    Susan Antony
  • Grammar Warning

    "antennae" is the plural for insects
    antennas is the plural for electronic devices
    Dave Barnes
  • Bah Humbug?

    So let me understand...Your position is that everything that is going to be invented has already been invented or will be invented only by major companies that are not there or is not presenting new products there -- you named Microsoft and Apple. So you only support the .005% of the American economy? What about all the other hardworking Americans that bust their asses creating new products and new ideas. They are at the show as well. They deserve to be heard by even pretentious folks such as yourselves because guess what...they can come out with a new idea that even large companies takes years to even figure out (not to mention the patent wars). So as I understand it, you are against the rest of the hard working Americans that are struggling to come out with a new idea or two.

    Oh and the economy isn't dead yet. So before you go spouting off about the American economy you should read what it has gone through for the last 100 years. This little bump in the road will be over before you know it and you will be eating your words.
  • You're over CES 2013? We're over you.

    I wish I had those 60 seconds of my life back after reading this.What a pompous, self righteous article. Regardless of the virtual world we live in, CES still brings value. Tens of thousands that attend must be wrong in your opinion. You are correct in one aspect that there will be some, if not many, products that will never see the light of day, just like the automotive world. Some of the coolest products you ever might see cannot be produced cost effectively for the market a given manufacturer is pursuing. That doesn't make them any less cool or innovative. Another thought is that maybe a manufacturer is just introducing a technology that they don't intend to mass market. There is also another large area of the show where you can find new suppliers that may or may not come up in a Google hit. Technology and the Internet is woven into our life forever but nothing replaces the face to face meeting and a handshake. Parting words, get over yourself.
    Too Connected
    • I guess David Pogue is full of it too?
  • what happened?

    what happened - did the bad economy mean you would have had to pay your own way to CES this year? or perhaps all the negativity is because AVN isn't the same week?

    yes, not everything announced at CES will become a major consumer product, that's just a reality of business that not every startup and idea can make it. just don't reject CES in it's entirety since you're too much of a fanboi to consider anything not made by Apple or Microsoft to be innovative.

    maybe ZDNet needs less bitter writers, people who might actually do something like, I don't know, look at and evaluate something instead of rejecting it sight unseen.
    • You caught me

      Yeah, I'm bitter about AVN. Without the porn, why bother schlepping all the way to Vegas to look at hundreds of identical products?
  • CES? Don't waste my freaking time.

    "Because if anything defines the electronics industry right now, it is not product diversity. CES 2013 is an illusion, a "Hunger Games" with few surviving winners."

    beau parisi
  • Don't wast my time with writers looking for readers

    It's sad that you article was the #3 news listing at Google news, you must be very proud. CES and other trade shows are not about the products but the people that make them. Maybe if you got away from you keyboard and talked to the attendees to find out why they are there you would better understand why trade shows can be productive for the 150,000 people that attend.
  • More of the same to me

    I find many in electronics overload. I think the whole flop of 3D TV proved that consumers won't just fork over money for any new technology. Especially old technology with a new twist. CES is full of devices that are here today gone tomorrow. Oh sure you get those expensive gimmicks like the Nest Thermostat that costs you $250 and saves you pennys per month if your lucky. Or those TV's that keep getting bigger and better. Of course let's not forget those appliances that email or text you when your wash is done or your refrigerator is running or NOT. But then again as some else said. Its Vegas so many most are just getting drunk with a hooker.
    • Actually

      The Nest is selling quite well and is one of the few truly innovative home automation products released in the last three years.
      • I agree with that...

        The Nest is a very cool product and I also agree with jscott418, that most attendees are just there to get drunk with a hooker.
    • recycled tech.

      "consumers won't just fork over money for any new technology. Especially old technology with a new twist."

      Apple have made a few quid doing it.
  • I agree

    And anything noteworthy will be on more blogs and sites like ZDnet than I can read.