Does CES represent the maturation of the industry?
As CES 2012 draws to a close, I think we can safely say that it was not as amazing as it has been in previous years. Yet strangely, I think this was one of the best shows ever. Why? Because almost everything shown was real. In years past, the biggest things have been mainly prototypes, crazy scifi-like stuff that will never come to market. Or, like CES 2011, products(Motorola Atrix, Xoom, etc) that look amazing on the show floor but don't live up to potential. This year, if you asked me what the standout product was, I couldn't say. But there were at least 20 or 30 good devices that will come to market, probably will live up to potential, and will make the gadget industry a better place in at least a very small way.
But this doesn't explain my headline, does it? No. My general idea here, the thesis if this was a formal paper, is that CES shows that the technology industry, which CES is representative of, is mature, or is becoming so. What I mean is this: There are less exciting, amazing, gigantic leaps, as we don't really need them any more. Look at the car industry. When was the last time that there was a huge change or innovation? You could argue that the rise of electric cars represents such a change, but actually we had electric cars in the early 20th century. The automobile industry is mature, so it can continue without the periodic huge upheavals and drastic advancements that have so far characterized technology. I feel that this is happening with consumer electronics. Sure, there will be a few more big changes - Something needs to happen with TV, I feel our current wireless carrier situation at least in the US is untenable, and there will probably be other major changes. But essentially, I think the era of the tech enthusiast or early adopter having to buy a new gadget every two months is at a close.
Additionally, the category of "geek" will gradually go away. Just look at young kids... They're all tech savvy. I'm a computer science major, and I can design websites and program a bit and use a command line and I understand how computers work but my niece can use a computer for all the tasks she needs to do just as well as I can. You don't need to be a computer geek to use computers now. I have friends who doesn't know the first thing about how computers or websites work, but they're better at using Facebook and Twitter for media marketing than I am. Or just learning how to do things - just because I understand the coding doesn't make me any better at learning how to use a new website or app. I know a lot of folks who are far from being computer geeks, don't care about gadget news, have no interest in programming, but are extremely good at using computers. And not just through experience; They can intuitively pick up how to use new systems, programs and devices. Again, to compare it to the car industry: Everyone drives a car, you don't have to read Car and Driver or Autoblog or be able to take apart an engine to do so. To go back to CES, I think the huge number of celebrities might be a sign of this as well. Technology is going mainstream - it's important to everyone now, not just geeks.
In the future, technology will just be a part of our lives. Everyone will have smart homes and all kinds of gadgets, and you won't care about it, it'll just be there. You won't be a technology enthusiast, you won't be that nerdy guy down the street who built his own computer and plays video games, but you'll be using technology constantly, in every part of your life. You'll be just as tech savvy as today's nerds but without caring about how it works.
It's kinda depressing, in a way, as I love technology, and I like enthusing over it, and reading the Verge, and doing nerdy things. And I'm not saying that nerds will go away completely - after all, there still are those who read Autoblog and spend their lives customizing old Camaro's. Or something, I don't know much about car people. But I think that it's the way things are going. Of course, I might be wrong, and even if I'm right, it's a long ways off, because this will only happen once everyone has grown up in a world with pervasive computers and other consumer electronics devices. Still, I think that this CES shows the beginning of consumer electronics and technology being a mature industry, slowing down a bit, and being more about iterative advancements then giant leaps.