Initially, I was incredibly excited for CES this year. Last year's was somewhat of a disappointment, with the show being dominated by high resolution televisions that were sure to be too expensive for the average consumer, and very little else. This time, I arrived in Las Vegas with the high hopes that true innovation would be here, that predictable incremental improvements were in the past and true innovation would be present. Alas, I was wrong, but I was also wrong in my approach to the show.
Wandering around the Central Hall, all of the major manufacturers basically had nothing new. The 4K TVs, 6-inch phones, curved everything- it had all been seen and done before. In fact, most of the products are and have been available for purchase for some time now. Heck, Intel was still hawking various ultrabook form factors that have been done for nearly a decade.
Yet, that doesn't contradict the spirit of the show. It's a trade show, after all; it's an attempt to bring products to the consumers' and investors' hands, to really advertise themselves in a way that can seldom be accomplished so publicly. And that's where the trade show is so interesting. It feels like window shopping, side-by-side comparisons between the flagship designs of the biggest companies all under the same roof. Originally, I was annoyed that the standout products at CES this year were just mature and boring technologies, rather than innovative proof-of-concepts. But now, I understand their value. These are the products that we want to purchase for ourselves, not random experimental things that will change how we view technology without guaranteeing a positive change. They aren't mind-blowing, but they sure are a lot closer to what we'll actually possess in the next five years.
And it was that change of perspective that made my time in the North and South Halls that much more fun and interesting. I was now shopping for the products that did their job the best on the market. I was floored by the Sennheiser Orpheus headphones (now a few years old) and the intelligent driving systems of Mercedes Benz. I was finding the true value of CES, and appreciating the products of the present, becoming less and less entranced by the distant and unsure future.
What good is looking so forward as a consumer anyways? The number one rule in the consumer electronics industry, after all, is to never wait for your purchase (unless it's weeks before the new wave or huge sales).