5 things I don't want to see at CES 2013

In just a few hours, the Consumer Electronics Show kicks off in Las Vegas with the pre-show keynote. But the event already feels days old, with all the announcements and press galas already passed. That's the insanity -- so much going on that vendors fall over themselves to get out stuff early so as not to be lost in noise. There will be plenty. Earlier today, I identified 5 things I would like to see come out of Las Vegas this week. Now it's the don't wannas.

Honestly it's tough to keep the list to five, but I do so for consistency's sake, or change much from last year. Vendors are queued up to make the same mistakes as in the past, incurring wasted marketing costs they pass onto you the buyer. With that, I present, in no particular order of importance, 5 things I really don't want to see at CES 2013.

1. Pre-show and first-day product pileups. CES 2012 was one of the worst for preannouncements. I couldn't imagine how this year's show could outdo the last one. But it has, so far. The show officially starts tomorrow, which is Day 1. The last two years, early announcements piled up on Day 0 and Day 1. But for 2013, there was a bunch of what I call Day -1 announcements. Why hold an event at all, if no one waits for the start?

The problem is no one wanting to miss press coverage and so everyone yells about their products at once -- either before the show actually starts or all done Day 1. Seriously, I expect little left come Wednesday morning. The pileup 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 attendees' 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 retail buyers and distributors. Even then, I wonder.

2. Products shipping in six months or holiday 2013. This is similar to one item from my want to see list. CES is too much the vaporware show. It's bad enough vendors yell over each other to get attention, to glean even a smidgen of marketing attention. But must they do so with products you can't buy this quarter -- or God forbid -- until Christmas? If you aren't shipping soon, you're pushing vaporware, dude, and wasting valuable resources that add costs passed onto consumers.

There's a misconception that because of search engine obsession -- ah, optimization -- the Internet has the memory of an elephant. Maybe it does, but people don't. Are vendor product managers so out of touch they think that hordes of buyers will wait 10 months to get that shiny new thing popular at CES? Hey, Mr. Sassafrass, you were once like the rest of us, too. Visit aunts and uncles and see how real people live.

If only the madness stopped there. Tech companies spend millions of dollars on network and other security to deter, and hopefully prevent, corporate espionage. So why would they display their trade secrets at a hugely public event, with scads of press coverage and competitors' spies lurking everywhere. That hot product shown off this week is copied and released in a couple months, long before the real thing is available.

I commend colleague Alan Buckingham for focusing on an actual -- whoa what a concept -- shipping product. LaCie has a new NAS server with release date and purchase price. Can you feel the earth shaking?

3. 2013 is the year of... From the halls of CES 2012, we were told to expect the year of the ultrabook (That didn't happen). And iPhone (That kind of happened). Smart TV (Ah, no). Or Windows 8 (Windows what?). Among many others. So I look askance at whatever predictions 2013 will be the year of. For the record, it's the year of the snake, according to the Chinese calendar. Everything else is pure poof.

4. Anything about Smart TVs. Sorry, but the Smart TV's time hasn't come. Will it ever? What makes it so brainy to begin with? Last week, Alan wrote about a new NPD report that finds lots of disinterest in and confusion about Smart TVs. How long has Samsung and Sony hawked connected sets, for example?

Consumers lose when the tech leaps ahead of what they've got integrated in the box. The first (and only) generation of Sony televisions with integrated Google TV is good example. Second-gen devices use a newer hardware platform that supports features not available for the older one. Buyers would have been better off with a box connected to the set, rather than obsolete integrated features.

I'll use myself as further example. My local Sony store has a huge remodeling sale underway right now. On Saturday, I looked at a 42-inch LED HDTV with $659 starting price available for around $600 but $407 after the big fire sale. A 40-inch model originally sold for $899 but would cost about the same after the big discount. I asked the sales rep why the smaller set originally cost more. It was a Smart TV, which doesn't appeal to me at all. If NPD is right, many others share similar disinterest.

My view of Smart TVs: Vendors are trying to create a market where none exists. My local Sony outlet store sells a 32-inch HDTV for $299. Not long ago, a television with that size screen sold for $1,000 or even $2,000 more. But prices have come down as economies of scale kicked in and consumer demand declined. Now manufacturers seek higher prices with thinner sets, bigger screens and so-called smart features. I say most people don't need or want the connected features.

5. Best of show awards. Take a close look at previous years' winners and see which turned out to be the godsend device of the year. Geek writers and judges aren't like the rest of us. The awards are great marketing for vendors but poor reflection of what products really matter at CES.

Photo Credit: Svilen Georgiev/Shutterstock

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