2013 was the first time in many years that Microsoft didn't host the opening keynote for the Consumer Electronics Show here in Las Vegas. Instead, the show went to Qualcomm and its CEO, Dr. Paul Jacobs. We weren't quite sure what to expect beyond a new series of processors, but what we got was weirder than anything we've seen in all of our collective years attending CES. While Chris Ziegler translated the surreal experiences into a liveblog and I took photos of the craziest moments, the rest of the Verge staff took to Twitter to react to the event. You can relive the insanity right here.
The keynote began with three actors behind a veil, vamping on about their "Born Mobile" lifestyles. We assumed that it was parody from the start — but with a growing sense of both horror and awe, we came to realize it wasn't and we were in for a wild ride.
The three actors were trying to represent three classes of young, hip mobile users. The Socialite, the Gamer, and the Entrepreneur. Their lines were so over-the-top they passed beyond the realm of self-parody into the truly absurd.
Qualcomm CEO Dr. Paul Jacobs continued the theme of "Born Mobile" and said that we needed to get ready for "Generation M." We were not ready.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made a surprise visit to the keynote to show off Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. He literally ran onto the stage and was full of his typical energy and verve.
After Jacobs unveiled Qualcomm's new Snapdragon processor, he invited director Guillermo del Toro on stage to demonstrate how it could be used in filmmaking. After a clip from the upcoming Pacific Rim, del Toro decided the most appropriate thing to show was an incredibly gory and graphic scene from Blade II. It was not appropriate. At all.
A common theme in tech is the assumption that most things will end up somehow connected to the internet. Jacobs apparently decided the common term for that, "The Internet of Things," just wasn't enough.
To demonstrate another Qualcomm-powered app — reading text with a camera — none other than Big Bird himself came on stage.
The developer who demoed the new app with Big Bird wore a creepy "Birdketeer
" outfit. He also helped Big Bird make a joke about outsourcing to owls — the politically incorrect moment fell flat.
The cognitive dissonance reached an all new high when Big Bird was followed by archbishop Desmond Tutu on the big screen. He was praising Qualcomm's involvement in world health initiatives.
Following the archbishop, we were treated to a trailer for the upcoming Star Trek movie. To talk about a related, Qualcomm-powered app, actress Alice Eve. The rapport between Jacobs and Eve was at times awkward and patronizing.
The final demo was an all-electric Rolls Royce that could be wireless charged via Qualcomm's "Halo" technology. It was as though there wasn't enough ostentation in the world to satisfy the keynote's planners.
To end the keynote, Maroon 5 came on stage to do an acoustic set. While it was a nice show for the people in attendance, livestream viewers had a different experience. Presumably because it didn't have the rights to broadcast Maroon 5's music, CES instead played silence, and then Dido over the audio track.
Perhaps realizing that it was creating the perfect storm of crazy as the capstone to the keynote, the livestream producers simply cut the feed.
Thumbs up! Great show, Qualcomm.
We've put together a supercut of the best moments from Qualcomm's keynote, so you can experience the madness one more time.