7 things I really don't want to see at CES

Next week, the biggest trade show of the year opens in Las Vegas. Tens of thousands of people will make the annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show. My inbox already bursts with press releases, and it can only get worse. I hate CES. Trade shows like this one are anachronisms. Microsoft is right to bow out after this year. There's too much noise and too many vendors trying to yell louder than the next one. Logistically, from a reporter's perspective, it's a nightmare to coordinate. There's too much to cover and not enough time.

So in that spirit, I've come to spit on CES and offer a list that juxtaposes colleague Tim Conneally's. Earlier this week, he posted: "10 things I genuinely want to see at CES 2012". Tim offers an excellent list of want-to-sees. I'm taking a different tact: Things I don't want to see -- or hear about -- during CES 2012.

1. Apple television. Geez Louise, Apple isn't even attending CES, but buzz is everywhere about the company releasing its own line of TVs. There's this cockeyed presumption that Apple will do better TV than everyone -- that it will somehow revolutionize the genre. Samsung, Sony and dozens of other manufacturers make some pretty damn impressive big-screens, and they've been doing so for much longer.

The only thing Apple could revolutionize, if it makes a TV, is the experience for people plugged into its lifestyle. It's all rumor. All conjecture. All wasted-time and energy. And all a distraction from thousands of other products announced and actually shipping (arguably not often right away).

2. Products shipping in six months or holiday 2012. Every year it's the same damn thing. Vendors line up to out-yell one another about stuff they won't ship anytime soon. What the frak? They generate excitement about the next, cool toy -- but you can't have it for six to 10 months. The excitement is long passed by the time many CES products ship, if they aren't already imitated first -- or changed to imitate others. On the latter, look how much Galaxy Tab 10.1 changed from its fabulous debut. Apple later launched iPad 2, and Samsung made dramatic alterations to Tab 10.1 specs. What it showed off isn't what shipped.

3. Steve Ballmer's CES epitaph. Okay, so Microsoft is smartly giving up the opening keynote and largely leaving the show starting in 2013. Next week, Ballmer will give Microsoft's final CES keynote, after about 15 of them (counting the nearly dozen from Chairman Bill Gates). Good riddance and, please, dispense with the retrospectives. Microsoft should have left CES long ago. The show ill fits a company primarily selling to businesses. The audience was never right for Microsoft.

4. 2012 is the year of... This is the year of ultrabooks. No, it's the year of iPhone -- or is that Android? It's the year when Apple revolutionizes TV. No, it's the year of Samsung smartphones. Quad-core tablets; any tablets; smart TV; flexible displays; e-readers; $200 tablets; Windows Phone; Windows 8; and so on and so on. For the record, it's the year of the dragon, according to the Chinese calendar. Everything else is pure poof.

5. Product prototypes. This one extends from #2. If you're going to announce something new at CES, show it off. If, Mr. Vendor, all you've got is a protype, or worse, something to look at behind plexiglass, you shouldn't announce anything. Your product is vaporware, dude. Sure you'll suck up all the free press you can get. But the real service to customers, and to bloggers and journalists making time for you, is something real that can be handled and used. Pre-production models are okay, as long as they can be touched and seen up close. Everything else is PR BS.

6. Anything about Steve Jobs. Now that Apple's cofounder has left this world and been canonized visionary extraordinaire, suddenly all things new are compared to what Jobs might have done instead. It's unfair to living innovators producing real products for this plane of existence. Get over Jobs. He left us -- taken too soon, perhaps -- but still gone. If you want to respect the dead, do so by also respecting the living. I'm talking to you, bloggers and journalists, and to the Apple Fanclub among you.

7. Day 0 and Day 1 product pileups. CES 2011 was one of the worst for preannouncements. It's the problem of no one wanting to be missed and so everyone yelling about their products at once -- either before the show actually starts or all done Day 1. The pile up means that:

  • Even more products are lost in the noise
  • There is too much at once for bloggers and journalists to cover
  • Smaller, deserving vendors are missed, even with something really cool
  • People bug out of the show earlier, because all the news is over -- wasting antendees' time and money

I'm a huge fan of smaller events hosted by tech companies, where there is more focus and clear message. CES is too big for most. If there is any real value to such a large venue, it's for buyers. Even then, I wonder.

That's it, I decided to stop at seven, when originally planning on 10. If you've got something you don't want to see at CES 2012, please answer in comments. Surely someone will crassly say Joe Wilcox. I'll oblige you there.

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