So CES 2011 has come and gone for another year. Whether you wanted to find mice shaped like Ford Mustangs or wanted a Michael Jackson impersonator to give you a free iPhone case or anything in between, the Consumer Electronics Show was your bag. But there were a few glaring omissions from this and pretty much every CES that there's been in recent years. Two of the biggest entities in consumer electronics, Apple and pretty much the entire video game industry, were absent once again from this year's show. So is CES a fraud and overblown or can it live on in all its obscure glory without these groups?
It's well known through out the technology industry that Apple doesn't like to attend or make its announcements at CES like most of its competition a la Microsoft, LG, Intel and whoever else you can think of. They hold their own press conferences randomly throughout the calendar year to introduce products like the iPhone, MacBook Air and all of the other trend setting items you probably own these days. Apple computers may not actually be more user friendly and their mp3 players may not actually be of a higher quality than say, the Zune, but one thing they can obviously do is market.
The most popular Smartphone off the top of your head is probably the iPhone, which sent waves throughout the industry by finally having their phone available to Verizon, arguably the most reliable service. Unless you jailbroke it, you were pretty much stuck on AT&T which wasn't exactly many people's first choice. However, the masses flocked to the service simply to be one of the first to use this fanciful new phone Steve Jobs spit out of his ass.
Macs are actually a pain in the ass to use since everybody's so used to the superior Windows operation systems (yes even Vista) and can't find any controls within the Mac's windows. I had personal problems just saving a Final Cut project last year when I was using a borrowed Mac. There were no technical problems, I just couldn't physically locate the damned save button. But Apple's marketing with Waiting star Justin Long and pudgy John Hodgman has helped make them the go to computers for rich white people out there. Think: have you ever seen a minority with an Apple computer? No just spoiled white kids. That should say something.
And these people are the primary audience for newly introduced technology and they flock to the biggest company who isn't present at CES. You certainly can feel their impact on the show floor as every accessory and speaker company has all their products made specifically for iPod/iPhone. You can't just go to any booth and expect to find Zune cases. You may find a couple limited edition ones but that's not because they're special; it's because they probably only manufactured five.
Seemingly half the booths at CES are made for Apple related products. You can get all time crappy cases in the Hong Kong section or you can actually find well made ones from places like Otterbox but all of them are made for Apple and pretty much nothing else. Occasionally you can find something made for Kindle of all things but even those places usually specialize in iPads. It's an Apple world at CES and everyone's attending…except Apple.
They're running CES without actually showing up. It's borderline obscene how much of the merchandise is related specifically to their products. You can feel Apple's being. But video games are the forgotten exception as there is virtually nothing available at CES in terms of one of the largest consumer electronics entities on the planet.
Before you read this part, I realize video games have their own show with E3 in Los Angeles over the summer and there was in fact a "Gaming Showcase" in the North Hall at CES, but how can something that calls itself the world's largest consumer technology tradeshow not have many of the giants of the industry?
EA had one token booth for EA active at the show but that was really the only game related booth I actually saw. There were other places where you could buy Nintendo DS or Wii cases (why you'd want to travel with your Wii is beyond me) but that was about it. Turtle Beach and Snakebyte also were there but you wouldn't actually call them major players in the video game industry. You think of Ubisoft, Activision, Blizzard, EA when you think of big shots. Yet only one of these had any kind of presence at the show and even that was tiny.
CES wants to be taken seriously by the industry as the biggest and most important show out there and they certainly do put on a good show. Las Vegas was filled with CES parties and whatnot. You could even go party with Baba Booey for free as a CES attendee. But I feel like I could get lost at E3 for days and still never talk to or see everything and everyone I want to. At CES I was bored by the third day, tired of sifting through Asian distributors to occasionally find a diamond in the rough like M Edge.
Who knows how many companies were buried within CES's huge grasp, which took hold of the entire Las Vegas Convention Center, and surrounded by Asians selling below average products with nothing noteworthy to show.
CES is one large trainwreck basically where everything you would want to see is covered by everything you wouldn't. They even put in a Hong Kong section to try to avoid this problem, but you've actually got place ALL the little Asian distributors there or it simply doesn't work. All that sign did was tell me where to avoid at all costs. There was nothing worth seeing as a member of the press there. Remember this is a tradeshow, not a Best Buy. I'm not going there to buy little trinkets. I'm going there to report on what I saw for the tremendous amount of readers of pnosker.com.
When E3 pared down a few years ago, they realized that they needed to get back to the heart of what they started. It was supposed to be a tradeshow for the press that helped get the word out there regarding new games and also allow for networking between gaming companies. They successfully did that and are now allowing the show to organically build back up with that heart in mind.
CES needs to do the same thing. They want to pretend that they are so important and have everything a tech geek could want yet have no presence from Apple or the video game industry. They're trying to be what is completely impossible in their current state. They need to filter out all the "Buyers" and make it a pure tradeshow again, allowing everyone to see everything while also becoming more receptive to the press, who many of the exhibitors don't give a second glance. Everyone's trying to sell something instead of show it off.
Even Gary Shapiro, whoever the hell that is, who works for the CEA, is hawking his new book with ads all over the floors. Wow a foreword by Mark Cuban! Wow a Barnes and Noble booth just to sell his book! Let's just say I enjoyed walking on Gary's face during the show. The CEA doesn't even realize the problems as demonstrated by that book who's name I don't want to mention on the off chance that you'll go buy it.
CES has to recruit Apple and the video gaming industry back into the fold if they want to become the seminal technology show once again. Right now arguably the two biggest entities in consumer technology are absent and that's just a shame. There are big problems with CES and nobody there seems willing to acknowledge them.