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, Iain'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 economysucks, 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.