I hate CES, and you should too

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.


"There is a fundamental conflict between marketing to early adopters who are more profitable customers and evangelists, and the rest of us", Russ Crupnick, NPD's senior vice president of industry analysis, says.

The problem is you, if a gearhead. A small number of enthusiasts, tech bloggers and the like drive interest in the next new things, which is fine in moderation; when everyone can appreciate them. But the CES tidal wave is insanity, and I wonder why any rational tech marketer would want to compete with the storm surge of gear and risk being lost in the sea of new announcements. Apple is right to hold smaller events where it controls the messaging and doesn't have to compete with the pouring horde washing over Las Vegas' desert sands. The large tradeshow is madness.

More significantly, events like this puts enthusiast before consumer -- the cart before the horse -- and that's a priority out of sync. "The industry can’t rely on consumers to drive innovation; it needs to give consumers a reason to want to adopt the innovation", Crupnick says.

I look at the last couple Consumer Electronics Shows and see much the same stuff -- just a lot of it crashing down at once. "The challenge isn’t just selling better features and specifications today, but also focusing on meaningful innovation that makes the next gadget purchased more valuable than the last", Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of industry analysis, says.

Stated differently: The average mass-market buyer has little in common with the gadget freaks flocking to Sin City this week. I adopt new stuff, because it's my job. I don't really need the newest gadget. But I do care about the glue -- content, software and cloud services -- that makes the tech fit my lifestyle. I'm not alone.

"Consumers want their technology devices to provide solutions to everyday problems, which often aren’t the most glamorous", Baker asserts. "They’d like help getting the best prices when they shop, being safe in their cars, managing their home and family and enjoying basic entertainment".

Yesterday I bought a new 42-inch television -- to replace the nearly five year-old one of similar size. I didn't buy because of 3D or Smart TV technology or even to get a larger screen (which would be too much for our small apartment). My local Sony store is having a huge remodeling sale. I got a $659 set for $407 before tax. Like most consumers, price is a major priority.

I use a Chromebook in part because my computing needs are basic, which is also reason for using Nexus 4 smartphone and Nexus 7 tablet. They're affordable products that meet the needs of my digital lifestyle.

But tech companies of all sizes will do this week what they always have: Over-emphasize features rather than sell benefits. The few that try will be hard-pressed to get above all the noise. The noise. The noise. Thousands of products crashing down on one tiny venue. Who will tell the world about them? Tech bloggers and enthusiasts who themselves obsess over features and send a seemingly positive, but really negative, feedback loop to manufacturers. The mass of consumers want to know why that 0.1-inch screen increase benefits them -- why their lives will be better because of it.

With about a day to go, and companies making announcements ahead of the kick-off keynote, we're still debating how best to cover CES 2013. I asked BetaNews writers to take a muted approach, that perhaps our readers would benefit more from stories about something other than the Las Vegas tradeshow. But the boys love their toys. So we'll see. My focus will be context -- what it all means. I'll occasionally spit in disgust, so, please, don't stand too close by.

Photo Credit: Consumer Electronics Show

15 Responses to I hate CES, and you should too

  1. Joe LoRe says:

    Right on Joe. I concur.

  2. snow755 says:

    sorry but i love CES even no i may nevere get a ch too go too one but i all ways look forword too all the new toys tablets tvs laptops and other cool things that they have come up with for 2013

    • extremely_well says:

      Hi. My name is Extremely Well and I'm future technology from CES 2050 that has gone back in time to assist the desperately in need of assistance (and also, in all honesty, as part of profit maximization by my employer). I am a human spell checker owned and operated by Microsoft of Peking, China. Please submit payment of $0.0013 to my employer or I may starve to death before tomorrow. :( Thank you. :)
      Your corrected transcript follows...
      "Sorry, but I love CES even though I may never get a chance to go to one [show] but I always look forward to all the new toys: tablets, TVs, laptops, and other cool things that they have come up with for 2013."

  3. view2share says:

    This is a website for new technology, is it not?

    • Tumultus says:

      What Joe means, is, that he would like to make money with his "tech" blog but he doesn't want to do the work (e.g. researching new technologies and visit tech events in order to report about them). Don't believe me? Check out his articles from the past year - all whining about / bashing of any kind of technology unless it says "Google" somewhere. :)

      • Larry Holmes says:

        Yep. Mr. Wilcox makes his money off of Link Bait headlines. This one is a perfect example. Apple hate is another one of his specialties and of course love for all things Google.

  4. Maybe CES is ill timed ? January is not the best time to launch new products.

    I don't mind CES. I follow technology regularly and CES gives me a glimpse of what's new in store and where technology is heading. It doesn't mean I change what I use regularly. I'm still running on a 6 year old desktop at work and it still rocks. I recently upgraded to Windows 8 and it gave fresh new life to the desktop, running faster and booting up in 5 seconds. I will only upgrade if the machine breaks down completely or if I feel I'm too much out of touch with what's out there.

    Having said that, I follow and read about CES so that when I have to make a choice I take an informed decision. I'm all excited how this new world of touch input is going to change the
    desktop/laptop landscape. CES gives me a glimpse of what's in the pipeline.
    Joe I expect you to do the same. How can you write about tech without experiencing the devices first hand ?

  5. Qliphah says:

    You make a good point, one that happens with video games, movies, cars, etc. It would be nice if they didn't all time their releases to compete with each other rather than be beneficial to the customers but this is how innovation works.

    If we only had a few new items they would most likely be similar and advancement would grow stagnant. With the deluge at these conferences there are alot of innocent well meaning ideas that get overshadowed but in all we get more creative and unique ideas.

  6. I would expect some quality reports from CES on tech blog, not a bunch of complaints.

  7. Fred Reed says:

    Why does joe Wilcox keep making these stupid comments I mean he doesn't care about anything at all. He needs to work on talking about topics that are worth talking about. The ces is good for reason to find out what new products are in store for the new year. If Joe doesn't like the CES then fine but don't make us suffer at your expense joe.

  8. wellsjs says:

    Joe, I hate sushi so therefore you MUST hate it also! Make sense?

  9. bnscott says:

    Most of what is happening at CES is not about early adopters or showcasing new stuff to the media; it is about making deals between manufacturers, distributors and retailers for the stuff that the mainstream is going to be buying.

    As far as spotting new and interesting tech gear, I think that most show exhibitors have given up on the main floor for that. There are a couple of side events that are better for that, such as Show Stoppers, and plenty of private meetings and communications, most of which don't actually require being there.

  10. Larry Holmes says:

    "I use a Chromebook in part because my computing needs are basic, which is also reason for using Nexus 4 smartphone and Nexus 7 tablet. They're affordable products that meet the needs of my digital lifestyle."

    If only Google made a blow up doll.

  11. sportmac says:

    to everyone inviting you? who might that be?
    an eweek reject that does little more than shriek at the top of his lungs is going to have a list of invitations? i'd imagine there would be many who could care less about what you write unless it's google.

  12. I think joe needs a job change

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