(post by ASPE Creative Director Chris Knotts)
Well, the short answer is not a whole lot, at least not right now. Consumer electronics aren’t really our focus here at ASPE-IT. However, to be a great technology trainer you have to stay neck-deep in the entire technology universe, and that definitely describes us. And CES is such a huge event in the tech world that I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least weigh in briefly with a few thoughts about it.
There’s really only one observation I’d make regarding some of the buzz that we’ve heard in our ecosystem. A lot of the commentary right now and in recent weeks has revolved around whether or not the CES itself is really still relevant. Now, by relevance I think people mean different things, but my general sense is that people are wondering whether the show is truly the hotbed of emerging innovative trends it would have us believe, and the definitive showcase for the current state of consumer technology. In other words, folks who love to watch the bleeding edge are always looking for the next big thing, and there’s a lot of opinion out there that they probably won’t be finding it at CES. After all, some of the biggest market trendsetters have never attended CES and I’ve read more than one commentator who seems to feel that gradually, fewer trendsetters are unveiling big news there. Accordingly, does it merit all the hype, all the money, and all of the press that comes with it year after year?
I’ve got two opinions about that. First of all, the big market players have to have a trade show somewhere. Technology manufacturers are always going to come together and do their thing. Until a challenger comes along that steals CES’ crown in this regard, this show is still where the majority of the big industry players are getting together. Is it a juggernaut? Undoubtedly. Does that make it a full-on dinosaur? Probably not just yet. Bottom line: let’s face it, a lot of big technology players getting together and having a huge trade show with a lot of buzz and press – bleeding edge or not – isn’t a bad thing no matter how you slice it. It still shows us the current state of the technology establishment. In the meantime, the tech blogosphere, pundits and gurus will certainly be quick to hop on the bandwagon of whatever comes along that showcases enough innovation to displace the establishment conference. It could be happening right now. It could be underground somewhere, out-showcasing the innovation at the booths of CES by the minute! But until it goes a little more mainstream, it seems we don’t yet know what event is.
My second point, and really the more important one, is that after having uttered those favorable, if unexciting, words, I’ve got to say there’s a very valid sentiment to the “is CES still relevant” chatter. It’s simple: CES is an event which has grown very huge. It’s turned into a gargantuan thing all its own which is intertwined with big industry players, with all their momentum and procedure. And I think we all know that those aren’t exactly the most potent ingredients for the best innovation. Apple, as big a player as they’ve become, recognized this years ago and has shunned the show because attending it would be contrary to their “anti-establishment trendsetter” brand. Then again, Apple is firmly emplaced as a big player and they’re the reigning champ at big-market trendsetting. And the old money in the room, establishment outfit IBM, has been looking pretty innovative for a while now.
As everything showcased at this week’s conference gets rolled out, i.e., how the big consumer market is being impacted by the latest round of faster, lighter, thinner and more connected, etc., the general sentiment by big player and small player alike will remain the same: innovation and creative thinking when it comes to putting all those pieces together is king. Will we see examples at CES? Folks will judge for themselves, but why rule anything out? Watching all those companies try isn’t a spectacle so mundane as to be downright boring. And if CES is somehow obsolete, I’m sure there are a lot of soon-to-be-successful innovators still watching closely.