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CES Day 3

Last night ended up being quite a late evening. After finally finishing up my overdue articles, I headed out for the "This Won't Stay In Vegas" party. Foolishly, I walked. It had to be a couple of miles from the hotel, but it was nice out, and I was early so what the heck. The place eventually filled up nicely, and the museum it was at--the Museum of Atomic Testing--was actually quite interesting as well. I ran into a lot of people there, including Star Trek's Brent Spiner, who seemed like a nice guy. I'll have a few pics of the museum up in a bit.

After the party, I went to a Podtrac dinner for Leo and his podcasters over at the Hard Rock Cafe's Pink Taco restaurant. One of the nice things about this CES in general, and that dinner in particular, is that I've been able to spend some time with various TWiT folks. It's an amazing thing to be a part of, and everyone is just fantastic. Gary Koffler and I spent quite a bit of time reminiscing about the early days of the computer industry--he was an actual participant, I'm just an amateur industry historian--and are going to see if we can turn this into a podcast. These stories need to be told, and by the people who experienced it. I hope it happens.

Today, I'm going to head over to the LVCC South Hall for an hour or so and hopefully record a short segment for Leo's radio show. This afternoon will likely involve some kind of non-CES activity--Neowin's Tom Warren and Brad Sams were talking about possibly going to Hoover Dam or something similar, so we'll see. I have a stupid, stupid, stupid red eye flight this evening/tomorrow morning that I'm not too excited about. But I held my hotel room for an extra day so I didn't have to stumble around Vegas with my bags for 12 hours.

Some ramblings about the show

Looking back on the 2010 CES, I guess I'd just say that the PC-type stuff has been deemphasized quite a bit, which makes sense since the natural evolution of the CE industry is for devices to obtain more powerful computing processing and capabilities; for a few years there, it seemed that you needed a real PC somewhere in the chain to make it all work. That's less the case now, I think. I was amused to hear an "industry expert" on the plane ride here to explain to someone that he's been coming to this show for so long that he remembers when it used to be called COMDEX. That's a sadly amusing bit of ignorance, given that CES has been its own show since the 1970's and that COMDEX was something separate, and something that was completely PC-centric. Maybe it's time to bring that back.

I'm also growing increasingly weary of the gadget-of-the-day silliness, which is fed by overly-popular gadget blogs. These guys pump something up until it ships and then they just move onto to the Next Big Thing. CES is all about this kind of baloney, too much so, and of course since the show spans industries, it spills over into businesses you weren't necessarily even aware of. Whatever you have has already been replaced by something better. It's just a treadmill, and getting people excited over nothing isn't a business model, it's a mistake.

That said, technology can be exciting, and it's the reason I love this business. Every once in a while something special does come along--the Kindle, the iPhone, perhaps (we'll see) that Lenovo U1 hybrid notebook--and keeps things interesting. Not coincidentally, however, the devices I just mentioned were both deeply flawed at launch; the Kindle and iPhone were way to expensive when they first appeared, and the iPhone had a litany of problems for PC users especially that lasted almost two years. It's funny how so few reviewers cared to admit that to their readers.

CES, of course, is about the future. So the hype here is understandable, especially for those products that won't ship for months. That much of Microsoft's keynote address was about momentum (i.e. "the past") is I think problematic: If Microsoft can't address the future at CES, and is instead allowed to give a 60 minute recap about how excellent the last year was, then it's time for CES to move on and find a company that is more aligned with the vision of the show. Put simply, it's not clear to me that Microsoft deserves to be headlining CES. Aside from the Xbox, they're not exactly lighting it up with consumers, and several consumer-oriented products and services--notably Windows Live--weren't even mentioned at this CES. That's unforgiveable.

It's unclear which company could fill this gap. Apple, of course, but then that would just be a 60 minute commercial for that one company's products, a replacement for the Macworld keynote. Instead, maybe it's time to let the diversity of the companies at CES by represented in the keynote, and have an MC that would bring up people from the top 10 of 15 companies with compelling stories to tell, in order, and let them parade their stuff. There just isn't a single company that deserves this spot, from what I can tell.

Anyway, I'm uncomfortable providing answers to my own questions. As a reviewer, I find it easy to spot problems ("complain") but not so easy to find answer ("solve"). So I'll leave that to the experts. But I do feel that a change is needed. I hope that CES is looking into this.

As for next year's show, whether I attend will be based on Leo's plans, as I enjoyed the live show recording quite a bit. I will do things a bit differently next time, however, and spend less time at the show and more time before the show researching where the PC-oriented stuff is so that I don't have to wander several miles around the LVCC to find it. Super-thin LCD HDTV displays are nice and all, but after walking by 1000 or more of them, they all kind of blur together, and if I never hear another thumping car bass again I'll die a happy man. Too much of CES is just irrelevant to me and what I write about. Next year, I'll ignore that stuff.

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