Another Reason to Be Excited By CES
Having just endured the maelstrom of sight, sound, and hyperbolic nonsense that is CES, it is easy for one to be relieved that it is all over. I have only been to the show in years past, and as such, I only know the experience as an attendee, a massively overstimulated, exhausted attendee. I can only imagine what it would be like to actually have to cover the thing.
But, one thing that was pretty clear about this year's show, and you hear this all over the place, is that there was something different. Sure, most of the same cast and characters (albeit, with interchanged antics/restraint) were there, and, largely, the content of the show was about what one would expect, as a casual observer, CES 2013 had a unique sub-text. That sub-text, in my opinion, was hope.
Sure, 4K is kind of gimmicky (and has real problems, especially with distribution), but it has potential. That is, I can see 4K being the thing that not only ushers in the next step in resolution (and maybe even Internet bandwidth) to the home, I can see it being the enabler for larger TVs for the home.
That is, one day, not all that long ago, 27" was plenty big for a TV. Then, 42" was considered "big screen". Now, one would have to push 60" and beyond to receive this moniker. Did resolution have a big role to play in this? Of course it did, and I think that is what 4K will do, that is, eventually, make 85+" displays "normal-ish" for the average consumer. And to me, this is exciting because it is not about the arbitrary argument about one person's screen being bigger than someone else's, but it is about immersion. Bigger screens are more immersive, and if companies can nail the design of the things so that they are svelte and elegant enough to not be an eye-sore, I can very well see "video wall" concepts going somewhere. And when they do, 4K, or even 8K, or whatever it is called, maybe SDUMHBDTV (Super-Duper-Ultra-Mega-High-Balls-Definition-Television, copyright 2013), will have been responsible.
Plus, at this year's CES, there were all sorts of unexpected innovations, like the Oculus Rift headset, to a real Steam Box, to (seemingly real this time) OLED displays, and several others. Seeing these things makes me look around and realize there are a lot of new things being done today. From what Ubuntu (and others) are trying to do with mobile, to the continued growth of Kickstarter, there is a lot of "new" going on. New is exciting. New is different. But most importantly, new shows an underlying confidence that it is OK to grow again, to come out from our storm shelters and actually start building cool stuff again because people will buy it.
To me, this year's CES further galvanized this message of hope. Things are getting better, and we have real, cool things coming to prove it. To me anyway, innovation in hardware, in real things, is a sign that people believe things have finally gotten better enough to be a little daring again. When calamity strikes, often what happens is a pause in any real innovation, then innovation on efficiency, then a recovery. Personally, without anything other than gut instinct (and maybe a sprinkle or two of optimism), I think we are finally well into this last category.
What excites me the most about CES 2013 is the growth we are seeing on the show floor. Finally, we are seeing things that are not only different and new, but that are being done in a different and new way. Growth is exciting, growth is energizing, growth is hopeful. Growth is forward-looking, instead of licking the wounds of the past. Growth shows possibilities, a way forward to something better.
One did not have to consume a lot of the coverage of CES 2013 to see that one of the big winners was Kickstarter. Who knew that this, fairly simple crowdfunding site would be the catalyst for some of the coolest things we saw this year? I sure didn't.
Also, in years past, CES seemed to be (largely) a lot about large companies showing off manufacturing and engineering prowess, not necessarily building things people actually needed. It is was more of a magical wonderland of what is possible, not what is needed. A peacock show of how amazing these companies are, by virtue of how amazing the things they can build are.
Of course, at this year's show there was plenty of that, but there was also plenty of things that were not only cool, but real. Real solutions to real needs, not just academic exercise in the realization of what is possible, but the realization of good ideas that address real demand. Because, the problem with cool for the sake of cool is that it is incredibly transient, easily forgotten as a flash in the pan.
I think we will look back at the post-2008 period as one that shaped a generation. But, every storm must eventually pass, and in the consumer electronics space anyway, there definitely seem to be some sun-breaks. That has me excited. Excited about what is coming, but also excited about what is happening right now.