January 11, 2013

Consumer Electronics Show Is Not For Consumers

One day before CES officially got underway, many of the “big” tech companies (such as LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony) held press conferences wherein they announced what we could expect to see shown off in their booths at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Some of these announcements had already been announced weeks before.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my first trip at CES, it’s that companies love to make announcements. They’ll make announcements about announcements, and once that announcement is done, they want you to give them your business card so they can tell you about the next announcement.

Sony held their presser a little late on Monday evening, announcing some OLED TVs, a new smartphone and something about a 4K content delivery system.

On the surface, this may sound like a company simply telling press, “Hey, this is what we’ve been up to. Come check it out and please write nice things about us.”

It may sound that way, but when president and CEO Kazuo Hirai took the stage, all he was really saying was “NAHNAHNAHNAHNAHNAH! WE BEAT YOU!”

Childish, no?

The second thing I’ve learned from my first trip to CES is that the name can be a bit misleading.

Sure, companies are sometimes showing off products that consumers can actually buy, (like Samsung’s new Galaxy Camera or the very cool and very demo-friendly Parrot A.R. Drone) but they’re mostly just there to engage in a multi-million dollar pissing match with one another.

Take, for instance, LG’s new 55-inch OLED TV. The big news about this TV isn’t the fact that it’s the first of its kind, it’s that they actually followed through with their promise to deliver said TV to customers.

Last year, both LG and Samsung showed off their own versions of this TV, yet Samsung has yet to actually bring theirs to market.

That means it took LG one year to deliver on a promise. Moreover, they’re bragging about the fact that it took them this long, so long as they beat Samsung.

It doesn’t matter to these companies if they actually ship the products they show off at CES, they just want to grab the headline, to show something flashy and futuristic. It may never become an actual thing that consumers can buy, these companies just want to show that this thing is possible…and they do so at the Consumer Electronics Show. Interesting, no?

Let’s go back to Sony for a second.

4K televisions are able to (essentially) show 4 times the pixels of other HD TVs, resulting in an insanely clear picture. They really do look just like looking out a window.

The only problem is, there isn’t a single 4K content delivery system in the world today. Sure, you could drop a quick 20K on a 4K TV, but you’d never see a 4K image.

No matter, Sony presses on and shows off a PROTOTYPE of a 56-inch 4K and OLED television. Said prototype also failed in the middle of the demonstration.

Sure, Sony has this television (singular) in their booth for viewing, and whatever it is looks fantastic.

But how can we be sure it’s actually a 4K/OLED hybrid? How do we know they’re not just announcing something so ludicrous just to make the other companies feel bad? Is a 4K/OLED actually possible?

Last year, Sony made a big to-do about a Crystal LED TV, touting it as even better than the OLED TVs LG and Samsung were showing off.

This year nary a word was mentioned about these Crystal LEDTVs.

CES is filled with plenty of very cool technology, but it seems to me that most of it is simply a glimpse of what’s possible rather than a glimpse of what’s to come or, heaven forbid, what’s available now.

It is for this reason that I have to call into question the title “Consumer Electronics Show.”

Perhaps it is this very reason why the CEA (the organization which puts on the event) has insisted that it be called “CES,” asking members of the press to refrain from spelling out the acronym.

CES is fun, sure, but I think I’d like to remove myself if the big boys of tech are just going to use this international platform to see whose is bigger.

It’s particularly upsetting if they never actually follow through.

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