Like 150,000 others, I too just got back from CES 2012. It was my fifth in a row, and each year I've been there are newcomers on my trip that I caution: you will be overwhelmed beyond belief; there is no way to see everything, especially not in one walk of the floor; the cab lines are insane; wear comfortable shoes; and finally, expect every electronic and computing device you've ever dreamt of to be there. All of that happened, and while comparing notes, nothing really stood out from all we saw.
Thinking more about it each day, I decided this year's theme was "Smart." Smarter screens and devices; all connected to the cloud, and to one another; anticipating our moves on the go, needs for work, and wants at home; controlled through personalization, touch, gesture and voice; and smaller, thinner, lighter, and faster than ever. And, all available within the next three-six months at your local Best Buy.
Many of the devices and technology showcased were familiar. Super thin flat-panel TV's with amazing picture and colors particularly from Sony, Samsung, LG and Panasonic; smartphones galore from Nokia, Samsung, Sony and others, light-weight laptops (i.e., "Ultra Books") and tablets everywhere, including Intel, Motorola, Lenovo and HP, connected home appliances from Samsung and LG, and enough digital cameras, wireless gadgets and numerous other screens and peripherals to fill a few football stadiums. And, cars!!! Interestingly enough, a lot of this looked or felt like Apple designed products. However, the real change is not the size, shape or speed, but the convergence of each of these platforms and their previously disparate experiences. The promise is being connected to each from wherever you are, with portable, on-demand, and seamless access to your information, content, and entertainment.
Five years ago, at my first CES, many of the devices showcased had the potential to be as revolutionary as the Wii and iPhone; both had recently been launched, and were top-of-mind as a benchmark for what might come next. There was a large focus on connecting platforms, compact and thin form factors, wireless interactivity and touch-interfaces like Microsoft Surface, and highly portable next-gen computers and notebooks with built-in high-speed connectivity. We even saw a few early versions of tablets at the Intel booth. These platforms have obviously evolved each year from then on, becoming thinner, smaller and larger, lighter, faster and better interconnected to one another, and have dominated much of the floor at CES in one way, shape or form.
With each year and CES, the speed to market of these advancements increases exponentially. This means we may not see as many new, revolutionary devices, but likely many more incremental, evolutionary improvements to consumer experiences. And, with companies such as Apple not having any presence, and Microsoft announcing a pullback, I'm not sure we need to wait for each subsequent CES to see what's coming next. At this rate, by the time January '13 comes around, we might have missed it!