CES 2011 in Review
Senior Director of Emerging Media & Innovation
After returning from the Consumer Electronics Show (2011) in Vegas in January, I compiled the highlights, along with a few thoughts on what all of this means for marketers, consumers, technologists, and others interested in the space.
Photos are my own unless otherwise noted. More photos from CES can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidberkowitz/ .
I welcome your thoughts on any or all of this. Respond to me on Twitter at @dberkowitz or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or reach 360i at @360i or via its Digital Connections blog at blog.360i.com.
Thanks for taking the time to check this out.
Everyone’s got to figure out how to share info on the fly. Those who are really serious sport this kind of mobile broadcasting backpack that will aim to find a signal on any network it can.
I went more portable. I left my better camera in the hotel room, opting for my pocket-sized Panasonic Lumix and the occasional iPhone shot.
The biggest challenge at an event like CES is the bandwidth is terrible. Relying on 3G and WiFi will stymie most media-sharing hobbyists.
Sure enough, you could find some rewards for checking in at various booths and venues. To the left, there’s an entry to win a Motorola prize pack, plus a Foursquare drink deal at the Wynn.
It’s great that a bunch of these deals were out there. Yet I rarely saw them promoted by the venues themselves.
There was a bigger problem: awful wireless access. Even sending texts proved challenging. You’d have to be determined to keep up the check-ins.
During peak times, there were about 500 people or so checked into the main CES event listing on Foursquare. Not bad for an event, but this is from a crowd of 140,000 tech savvy attendees. A total of 13,500 people have checked into the Las Vegas Convention Center since Foursquare’s debut.
As someone who spends a lot of time on the road and at events, I’m obsessed with portable power.
Energizer showcased a slew of adapters at a press event, but I haven’t tried them.
Recently I picked up the Zaggsparq 2.0 portable charger with 2 USB ports and supposedly 4 full iPhone charges. I’m skeptical that it has that much juice, but I loved having it in my jacket pocket as my Droid and iPhone ran low after nights of too much texting.
I won the smaller charger from Case-Mate with adapters for various devices. It’s got a quirky, often frustrating design, but it’s only $40 and much smaller and lighter. So far so good.
Image source: Zagg.com
Quirky’s one of the more fascinating companies I’ve come across in recent years. It crowdsources product development, and people who influence the product earn a percentage of its sales.
The gift bag included some fun Quirky products, and I’ll have to pay a visit to their NY office.
Wearable and wantable
When it comes to CES product launches that people I know will actually buy, the Nike+ SportWatch GPS is way up there. It’s not the first GPS watch, but it syncs up seamlessly with the Nike+ online community, which is also undergoing regular upgrades. I didn’t realize, for instance, that if you see someone share that they’re running on Facebook, you can cheer them on and the runner will hear your cheer live.
Also hot: the SportWatch’s USB plug in the wristband. This kind of slender, partially exposed plug is becoming more common as devices keep getting more portable.
Internet refrigerator, take 36947191
All devices are becoming digital, and more are Internet-enabled too.
I was fascinated by LG’s new line of appliances that connect to the internet for a range of purposes, from managing power consumption to updating the best ways to care for your clothes and food.
I was all the more impressed with the guy to the left’s multitouch skills.
What’s not clear is if it will still be really simple to have these appliances do what they’re really supposed to do: clean your clothes, and cool and cook your food.
Which robot floor cleaner are you?
Odd microtrend: all the robot floor cleaners demoed at CES.
Living in a cramped Manhattan apartment, figuring out which robot should clean my floor is hardly a top priority. I wouldn’t mind one of those Jetsons cars that fits in your pocket though.
Robotics should be a fun area of CES to watch, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see massive robotics pavilions to spring up before long.
That’s one crowded living room
Whoa, the living room’s getting crowded. Interactive TV was EVERYWHERE.
Logitech promoted its Google-powered TV search.
This is further powered by Intel, which promoted its Smart TV technology.
TiVo is still trying to stay relevant with its souped up DVRs.
Yahoo promoted its interactive TV widgets.
Microsoft has a slew of TV software and hardware, from media players to TV chat to Xbox Kinect.
That’s just a start. There will be a cycle of understanding building the next few years. Consumers will learn what’s possible, and brands will learn what consumers really want.
Thinnest. Smallest. Biggest. 3Dest.
One thing CES and related shows will always capitalize on is hyperbole.
I can’t tell you what the thinnest TV is, the fastest laptop boot time, the lightest mobile phone, the highest resolution 3D TV… no clue.
It is fun seeing all of it though, even if I can’t keep track of who’s claiming what.
Off the beaten Convention Center path
CES is the definition of hyperbole. That’s why I always look for the smaller events.
Two press events are annual pit stops:
Showstoppers and Pepcom’s Digital Experience both bring a mix of players from major brands to obscure startups. The food’s usually pretty good too. The better part of my roundup here came from exhibitors at these events.
Social Media Club always brings a lot of great people together after hours. Catching up with founder Chris Heuer is one of my favorite CES traditions.
I also had a good time at the official CES Tweetup at the Hilton. Both the crowd and exhibitors were much better than I expected.
They say the media shall inherit
Major media companies are creating so much of the content that consumers are flocking to on all these new devices, so it makes sense for them to have a notable presence at CES.
The most notable? NBC Universal, with anchors such as Chris Matthews broadcasting live from the MSNBC desk and the central stage that shifted themes each day, from SyFy to Bravo to Oxygen. I got to sample the popcorn balls frozen with liquid nitrogen from Top Chef contestant Richard Blais – an added perk.
I’m actually surprised to not have seen other prominent exhibitions from those on the content side, though they were clearly represented among attendees, including at events such as Digital Hollywood.
Is this the place to launch a brand?
Maybe it is.
Reese’s came out with Peanut Butter Cup Minis during the show, with plenty of free samples to go around.
There was no clear connection between the product and the event, even if someone told me that a messaging point was that technology keeps getting smaller, so Reese’s do too. Actually, at CES, most tech companies focused on their biggest products; tiny goods don’t make for the best photo opps.
No one seemed to care. I asked a brand marketer friend for his take, and he hoped there was no real connection. The randomness of it excited him, and that – with the orange-yellow-brown branding too boot – may be the way to stand out in a crowded market.
Big brands, bigger ideas
I didn’t get to many panels at CES, but I lined up early for the Entertainment Matters keynote panel featuring The Coca-Cola Company CMO Joe Tripodi, along with leaders from MediaLink, Akamai, IPG, Microsoft, and WPP.
The money quote came from Tripodi: “We’re more in the space of managing communities than creating ads.” He referred to community management several times, while other times decrying push marketing as passé.
Think about what just happened. This CMO of one of the biggest brands and advertisers in the world wanted to talk about anything but advertising.
With Coke’s 22 million Facebook fans (and growing) – an American Idol sized audience – that he can reach for $0 in media spend, he’s on to something.
Pay it forward
The entire payments field is being upended. There’s tremendous upside for a range of players here: Apple and Google with their app stores, PayPal for peer-to-peer and merchant transactions, P2P startups like Venmo, B2C tech like Square, and the mobile carriers themselves for direct billing.
Two more to watch:
1) Mitek Systems, which developed the technology to deposit checks by taking pictures of them with your phone, a feature they said will soon be ubiquitous. They just launched Mobile Photo Bill Pay – take pictures of bills to make a deposit.
2) Dynamics, Inc, which allows credit cards themselves to become more interactive, such as to switch between multiple accounts or require PIN #s entered on the card before using them.
Image source: Photobucket - jjagla
Games even more distracting than ugly carpets
CES is for gamers – and gamers of all kinds. Microsoft Kinect was a hot product there but launched months earlier. EA piggybacked on the console craze to promote its active2 fitness lineup with heart monitor armbands.
A personal favorite from the show was Sphero, a game featuring a robotic ball controlled by a smartphone. I got to demo it and while its responsiveness was a little haphazard, it should be a ton of fun when it launches, especially since they’re opening up the code so anyone can create apps for it.
For those who prefer going offline, Mattel went totally analog and announced an Angry Birds board game. It will probably be the first board game many of the show’s attendees will have bought in years.
Image source: iLounge.com
Return of Smell-o-vision
Of all the products at CES I encountered, here’s the one I’m LEAST excited about: Game Skunk. Official description: “Sensory Acumen's gaming product GameSkunk™ is an olfactory feedback system device that will deliver scents connected to game play for gaming consoles or PC/Macs.”
I don’t care whether it’s an orc, a Sim, or an Angry Bird . I’m still wondering if this could be some elaborate hoax. More description: “Missing from your game playing role is the ability to smell the action; the smell of an alien planet, explosions on the battle field, crashes on the race track, and even the sweat of the sport.” You want to smell sweat and burning rubber?
It’s also the worst-named product. Why not Game Rose or Game New Car or Game Fresh Laundry or Game Something You LIKE Smelling?
Fine, I’ll mention the tablets
Yeah, there were a ton of tablets at CES. Occasionally I’d try to muscle my way into the crowds gawking at them, only to give up.
Here’s the only thing you need to know about tablets today: don’t buy one until the iPad 2 comes out. You’ll have buyer’s remorse whether you get a first-gen iPad or one of the slew of Android models, let alone any other.
All images via The New York Times, except bottom right Motorola Xoom via Motorola.com
Hunkahunkaburnin’ birthday candles
What’s Vegas without Elvis?
The King’s birthday is January 8, though I couldn’t find any peanut butter banana birthday cake anywhere.