Steve Ballmer's surprise CES pre-show keynote appearance is shocking and full of symbolism. Ballmer goes from being star to minor player on one of the tech industry's most important stages. Stunned sums up my reaction, and I was sorry to see Microsoft's CEO there last night. The company officially pulled out of the Consumer Electronics Show this year, with Ballmer ceding the keynote he inherited from Bill Gates. Clean break would have been better than this.
I don't demean his time on stage, which actually livened a limping start. Qualcomm chief executive Paul Jacobs benefited from his keynote predecessor's Windows 8 presentation. My problem is Ballmer being there at all, for what his presence represents -- and there are a couple overlapping ways to read it.
Netgear read my mind. Hopefully not all of it, but the company is welcome to my tech thoughts at least. Just recently several of us here at BetaNews wrote about the tech we used most in 2012. In my column I mentioned that my trusty HTPC grows long in the tooth -- you think dog years are rough, try computer years. I started using a Netgear NeoTV instead. As I mentioned then, and will reiterate now, the interface is not flashy, but it works seamlessly. the hardware is robust as well.
In the end though, I admitted my plans in 2013 were to move to Google TV because of the added features -- web browser, apps, you know the routine.
The Computer Electronics Show gathers a significant number of companies and prospective buyers alike in Las Vegas for four days starting Tuesday. However, many companies didn't wait for opening day. Which among the early birds stand out from the others?
From the plethora of pre-show announcements most are oriented towards general consumer appliances. For instance, LG's presentation emphasized 39 new driers and 72 new fridges, among super expensive OLED TVs. For a passionate technology enthusiast like myself CES is not Heaven, it's utter Hell. Still, within the literally hundreds of announcements there are some exciting products unveiled in all the pre-show madness.
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.
While the Consumer Electronics Show is mostly about gadgets for your home, there's more to it. Unfortunately, devices that are more functional, as opposed to flashy, tend to fly beneath the radar. That means that good, useful equipment, that we will actually see on the market before CES 2014, does not get the attention it deserves.
That is the case with a new LaCie network attached storage device designed for small businesses. The company today announced its 5big NAS Pro, a device that brings some new functionality to the product line. According to LaCie, the new NAS will have what it describes as "True Hybrid Cloud". This will use the company's own cloud storage, Wuala, and display both network and cloud storage in one view. This means one interface for both users and administrators, which is especially important on mobile.
Tomorrow, the Consumer Electronics Show officially kicks off, not that many vendors are waiting. There already are plenty of Day 0 and -1 announcements, which make me wonder if this -- the first of two posts -- isn't already late: What I would like and not want to see during this year's big event. If early press galas are any indication, many CES participants won't hit the jackpot in Las Vegas this year. Sadly that's a trend.
Like 2012, I'm sitting out the tradeshow. The real benefit is mingling, and that's for everyone -- from journalists to manufacturers to distributors. CES really isn't about gadget geeks but everyday consumers and CE manufacturers getting goods to them. Why else would LG's press gala feature 39 new driers and 72 refrigerators coming this year? But the big noise is all about the toys today, as it will be all week.
It's tradition. Consumer Electronics Show descends on Las Vegas. Apple doesn't attend but does something to steal some thunder. So it's no surprise that this morning the Cupertino, Calif.-based company announced 40 billion App Store downloads -- half in 2012 and 2 billion in December. That's surely impressive, but nowhere as near thunder stealing as some past years. C`mon, where are those strategically placed rumors that turn attention away from the big event?
In 2011: Mac App Store. Twice. A year earlier: iPad and in 2011, too. Who can forget iPhone in 2007, which literally stole the show. The trend is so assured, last year I asked (and answered): "Are this year's CES attendees afraid of Apple?" So far, in 2013, they have nothing to fear.
Consumer Electronics Show 2013 commences in about 24 hours with the pre-show keynote. I won't be there, and wonder why you will be. Apple is right to be a perennial no show, and Microsoft demonstrated wisdom pulling out -- and this year giving up the coveted kick-off presentation. Tradeshows like this are dinosaurs. Where's the meteor -- the oh-so needed extinction-level event? To everyone inviting me to their CES booths and parties, perhaps now you understand why I didn't respond to your email.
I hate the Consumer Electronics Show and the tsunami of products crashing down in mass self-mutilation and destruction. Who needs them anyway? Will your life really be better because a new cell phone's screen is 0.1 inch larger? Or there's a new Google TV box just like the others, only from a different manufacturer? NPD says not. The analyst firm released data today that tickles my CES-loathing soul: According to surveys, 68 percent of US consumers are happy with the tech they've got. What they do care about: Tech that meets their, ah, digital lifestyle.
Perhaps you're thinking about Consumer Electronics Show 2013 and all the goody gadgets set there to debut. Microsoft isn't, having pulled out of the event (and that includes the big kick-off keynote). The company instead looks ahead to E3 in, ah, June, with Major Nelson (aka Larry Hryb) posting a countdown clock. Easy speculation is to the next Xbox, but don't choke up with excitement just yet.
CES keynote is exactly where Microsoft chief exec Steve Ballmer would unveil Xbox 720 (one of the rumored names), only to make everyone wait until November to get it. E3 debut simply means later announcement and likely holiday shipping, which is consistent timetable for Microsoft consumer products. When could you get Windows Phone, Xbox Kinect or Zune? Early November, baby. So consider that countdown clock just a wicked teaser -- like Lucy yanking the football out from Charlie Brown or Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner off a cliff. Xbox 720, or whatever Microsoft calls it, won't be there in 158 days.
Pulling out of trade shows worked just fine for Apple, but Microsoft’s decision to follow suit and drop out of the Consumer Electronics Show in 2013, and beyond, could have catastrophic consequences for the Redmond, Wash.-based company.
For years we have become accustomed to Bill Gates and, later, Steve Ballmer opening the show with THE keynote address. Now a company once considered by many as the most important in the industry has reduced itself to an afterthought.