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January 2011 Meeting Hilights

By Monte Ferguson

A Tale of Two Trade Shows

After the Christmas buying season frenzy has worn down most of the country gets back to everyday affairs. But for the gadget geek in the family the New Year brings in two big electronics trade shows. One is geared to industry insiders and professionals, CES, the other to consumers, MacWorld Expo. The difference in focus, and audience ensures that the shows are very different affairs.

Why do we focus on CES? Because it encompasses everyone outside of Apple. It gives us a peek into the trends and predictions from the mainstream electronics makers. Besides it's usually downright fun to look at the oddball announcements and products that come out at CES.

CES is a huge event. No doubt about that. It is held in Las Vegas after all. The big behind the scenes buzz was consumer electronics are hot. That's no surprise to us. But what is news is that all kinds of big businesses are taking notice that consumer electronics have hit the mainstream. We're talking; publishers eyeing tablets and e-readers, telecoms talking about content distribution, Hollywood execs looking to broker said content distribution deals. They're all looking at consumer electronics as the next "Big Thing" to expand their business'.

This year the big product buzz was all about tablets. Practically everyone either had a tablet coming out or would have one coming out "soon". The biggest announcements at the show were the Motorola Xoom and the RIM Playbook. All of these vendors are scrambling to try to tap into this new market that Apple basically created. The problem is that Apple not only has first mover advantage, but thanks to their scale, they can underprice the competition. Our consensus was that unless they can totally pull something out of nowhere all of these tablets will be dead in the water in 3 months. Much like the seven inch tablets that were supposed to be iPad killers last year.

Another big trend at this years show was 3D. Last year the big push was in 3D tv. This year 3D is being brought to laptop displays. Then you have cameras who claim to be capable of shooting 3D images. Camcorders are now being offered that can shoot in 3D. Lastly, Nintendo is set to announce a 3D capable handheld gaming system. Our take on this is that it's a niche interest at this point. It makes for great demos but its not a compelling feature to pay extra for.

On a humorous aside, even though Apple does not attend CES they were well represented. There are tons of vendors hawking all kinds of iPad/iPod/iPod Touch cases, skins, keyboards and other accessories.

We also took note of what Microsoft had to say this year. CES is MSís chance to strut their stuff on stage. Much like Apple used to do at MacWorld. This years announcements were pretty much ho hum. They announced Windows 8 and that they would get it running on ARM processors, like the iPad uses, as well as x86 processors from Intel an AMD.

Overall the impression we had was that CES was a lot of "sound and fury signifying nothing".

Posted: Thursday, April 14th, 2011

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