The 2012 International CES exhibit floor will remain open through Friday, but I’m happy to say I’m back safe and sound in the office. Most of the wireless players made their announcements and the relevant industry keynotes have been delivered.
As the first real snow of the year falls out the window behind my desk right now, I’m considering the highlights from my four days in the sunny desert.
Microsoft, Nokia and Windows Phone 7 (WP7) managed to monopolize much of the show’s attention. The Nokia CEO and Lumia 900-wielding Stephen Elop appeared on stage Monday during the opening keynotes at AT&T’s DevCon. He then made appearances at his own company’s press conference later in the day, only to reappear during Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs’ keynote on Tuesday. (Qualcomm chips power all Windows phones).
Nokia obviously felt the pressure to make a splash during CES, as it admitted to having been absent from the U.S. market for years, while simultaneously heralding its own return. The Finnish OEM had signage up everywhere in Las Vegas, break dancers and free coffee at the monorail platforms and tchotchkes galore. Whether any of it will reawaken consumers in this country to the Lumia line of WP7 smartphones remains to be seen.
Of course, the Lumia 900 shared some of the stage with other LTE-enabled devices, which came out of the woodwork in droves. AT&T announced six new LTE-capable Android devices, while Verizon was caught making comments that nearly all future device additions to its portfolio will include 4G radios. But it wasn’t really much of a surprise that LTE-capable gadgets were a theme. Analysts have been saying for at least a year that 2011 would be the year of LTE dongles and hotspots and 2012 would be the year of LTE handsets. Besides, did we really think carriers were going to pour buckets of money into their next-generation networks just to let them sit there?
In other news, connected automobiles were so prevalent it almost felt at times like car salesmen were just waiting to pounce if you stood still too long. As far as I could tell, it didn’t matter if you were a carrier, an app developer, a chip or accessory maker, you probably had some kind of partnership with an auto manufacturer.
Equally eager to be connected were all the television sets on the exhibit floor. I had to wince when I realized that my year-old Sony LCD flat panel is already an antique.
On the emerging technologies front, a couple of augmented reality demonstrations made me realize that wireless technology is about to revolutionize how we search for and obtain information. While there’s been a lot of talk about this technology, adoption has been relatively slow. However, judging by what I saw from HP and Blippar, citizens of the future really will be wandering around with Terminator-like connected eye glasses, if not retina implants, that can identify a known felon from a block away.
Samsung is doing something right. Its booth seems to grow every year, and I’m pretty sure its produces at least one version of every product powered by electricity. Over the past year, it has survived a scathing legal battle with Apple. Samsung smartphones are on the tips of everyone’s tongue. They seem to be producing some of the most competitive Android tablets on the market. Their ultrabook looks on par with the Macbook Air, and they’re finally figuring out how to facilitate communication between everything from phones to tablets to TVs and refrigerators.
Aside from the highlights, there were some major downsides to this show that I think CEA is going to have to deal with in the very near future. Lines for buses, cabs, even the monorail, were so long that it made it almost impossible for press to get from one keynote to the next, even with two hours between events. Lines for keynotes and press events formed hours ahead of time, which would be fine if you could actually obtain a Wi-Fi connection in said line to send out an assignment that’s already an hour late.
The fact that this show has been split between the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), the Venetian Hotel and the Las Vegas Hotel (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton) has to be seen as some kind of admission that CES is simply too big for its own good (or at least too big for the LVCC).
Microsoft’s announcement just weeks ahead of the show that this would be its last CES seemed to dampen the mood. At least among the press members I talked to and overheard – those schlepping their heavy bags from hotel, to cab, to press room, to bus and back again – there seemed to be a lot of grumbling and a general questioning as to whether it’s worth trying to beat the hordes to post a story maybe a minute or two before the competition.
But after having time to consider the trip, I’ll go out on a limb and say that it was worth it. While the very technologies that CES promotes could easily facilitate an online virtual conference of sorts that would nix the long lines and expensive plane tickets, this annual pilgrimage to the desert seems to offer the cold world of technology at least a modicum of warmth. It’s where we get to see the smiley faces behind all the new products, test the latest gadgets and be amazed by fantastic visions for tomorrow. It’s a place where everyone, from journalists to developers to the CEOs of major corporations, can emerge from their respective cubes, garages and boardrooms to take part in another kind of network – the human one.
Filed Under: Industry regulations