CES 2014: The Need for More Software Image Credit: CES

CES 2014: The Need for More Software

In this very column last year at this very time, I wrote about my experiences in Las Vegas at CES 2013. I'd imagine you're not interested in going back in time to read that article, so let me sum up the interesting stuff quickly so we can move on to this year’s CES event and what I learned:

  • CES is still the largest technology trade show in the world. I don’t even think CES has a handle on how many attend each year, but it hovers around 150,000 people.
  • Tens of thousands of people from all over the world attend CES and make it the only trade show they attend each year.
  • CES is truly beloved by the techno and electronic gadget geeks from all over the world. This is a place where folks who wear Google Glasses thrive.
  • Getting a legitimate look at every exhibitor at CES is literally impossible during the four days of the event. You’d have better luck making every ride at Disneyland in four days than getting to see all the CES exhibitors. According to the exhibitor search on the CES site there were 3,473 exhibitors strewn across the Las Vegas Convention Center's two million square feet of floor space and beyond, like into the Venetian down the street.
CES 2014 Show Floor
CES 2014 Show Floor

Software is Essential for Future CES Shows

My history at CES goes way back to 2002 when I had to staff the Visual Studio booth and answer the question, "What's Microsoft Visual Studio?" 10,000 times. But, last year all the major software vendors such as Microsoft, Apple, and Google decided to skip CES and focus on their own company conferences.

I still think it’s a shame that the big three don’t attend CES, because I think software still makes hardware ultra-cool. I'm not suggesting that consumer hardware isn't cool by itself and there wasn’t a bunch of cool software there at CES. It is and there was. My favorite is wearable computing: Intel’s baby monitor of the future.

Intel's smart baby onesie
Intel's smart baby onesie

But, the big three weren't totally missing this year. There were legions of Microsoft folks from the Xbox team there. I ran into a long-time buddy from the Xbox team in the speaker room, and he said, "What the heck are you doing here?" The Microsoft Perspective Pixel (PPI) team was there, too. The PPI is that magical screen in 55" and 82" form factors with an awesome fidelity of touch.

Like last year, without software or content, we are left at CES with over 1000 different types of 80"+ HD and 3D capable screens. The latest screens are awesome; essentially 8× the resolution of HD. Incredible resolution and fidelity that's almost scary, and 3D so real with glasses that it’s sickening in some people’s cases. But moving that much data to a screen requires software. We won’t reap the benefits of these screens for years because there's no real software; nor is there content in systems and mechanisms that are in place to push that much data yet. We software folks have to be given the chance to catch up.

My Presentation: User Interface Innovation: What’s on the Horizon?

Well, the kind folks at CES invited me to come back and speak again, so I jumped at the opportunity to speak at the conference. I did a presentation called, "User Interface Innovation: What’s on the Horizon?" I didn’t make up that title. Ten months in advance, the CES folks reached out and told me that's the title of the presentation they’d like me to do. I've never spoke at a conference that does it like that. I like that. They have the muscle to tell me what to present opposed to the other way around.

Well, I knew it would be fun because my presentation went so well last year. I have a theory about CES. My theory is that it’s a hardware conference filled with people starved for good software. And like last year, I had a full house and did a ton of demo on great software (all .NET) with engaging user interfaces (UIs) and tons of focus on UI design. Gesture and voice recognition is always a hit in conferences like this one. That also goes for speculating on the future neural interfaces and virtual environments and showing what's being done today.

My Keynote: The Engaging User Experience & the Natural User Interface

I was honored to be invited to keynote and VIP reception for about 300 attendees during CES that was held at the Integration Center. It was sponsored by Avnet and Microsoft’s PPI team. I did the entire presentation without a mouse or keyboard on a PPI device. Touch, voice recognition, and gesture; very fun presentation similar to the one I did at CES, just more 'keynotey.'

I must have got it right because the concepts of the UI design really resonated in both presentations. Plus, there's nothing like compelling demos to captivate and engage an audience.

Again, like last year I was surprised at how many attendees downloaded or asked me for my presentation. If you’d like either or both of them, just send me a note.

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