CES 2017: The rear view mirror

With the last of the blog team home safe, it’s time to take one last look at the show. It wasn’t the biggest… and that was on purpose. At times it actually felt a little underattended. It seemed like there were fewer announcements, fewer buzz-worthy products, and fewer vendors putting it all out there on display. And yet, at least for Solid Signal, it was the best show ever. Why?

The show floor doesn’t mean much.
The show floor, although it teems with flashy products, isn’t where the real deals get made. Our team spent hours and hours in hospitality suites and private meeting rooms full of stuff we can’t even tell you about yet. This is the real Consumer Electronics Show. This is where the products that really matter are on display. The big TVs and flashy cars? That’s all just for corporate pride. If you see something at a major manufacturer booth, it’s already going to stores. That stuff is there to excite you about the brand, not to really change the world.

Yes, we saw that other stuff.
One comment I got a lot this year on my reports is, “yeah, but didn’t you see the…” Yes, of course. Yes I saw the three screen laptop. Yes I saw the Faraday Future. Yes I saw the 216-screen LG video. I also know that you all read engadget and other sites and get those stories already. I hope you read The Solid Signal Blog for a somewhat different perspective. And for the record, the 3-screen laptop was cute but unrealistic. The Faraday Future will never see retail sales, and the LG thing was clever but ultimately meaningless.

The big story was who wasn’t there.
The Consumer Electronics Show used to be a place for big brands to get exposure, and if you’re Samsung, LG, or even TCL, it still is. But Microsoft left years ago, Apple’s never been there, and an increasing number of manufacturers are choosing to forego the flashy booth. TiVo, Logitech, Parrot (the maker of drones) and even our friends at Wilson Electronics chose not to show anything to the public, instead simply opting for closed-door, appointment-only meetings. I personally think that’s the future of CES. I think it’s going to continue to shrink and eventually become a mostly closed marketplace. And, as I said, that’s ok too. That’s where the real business is done.

Saturday was a dumb idea.
This year, due to scheduling conflicts — the show had planned to move away from Las Vegas and didn’t lock down the convention space — the floor was open from Thursday through Saturday instead of the regular Wednesday through Friday. This was a big mistake. A surprising number of vendors simply didn’t show on Saturday, either due to lack of interest or religious conflicts. Next year CES goes back to a Wed-Fri schedule and that’s a very, very smart idea.

Winners and losers
The real winners of the show, I think, were the car manufacturers. I didn’t really report on the North Hall, but it looked like a car show, not a consumer electronics show. Cars were everywhere in every hall, and it was all about the major manufacturers showing their latest user interfaces. That’s become as important as the engine, I think.
The losers, surprising as it may sound, were Samsung and LG. Both companies showed some intriguing products but having seen both of them at least half a dozen times in the same location, I think their booths were less interesting this year, full of fewer new products, and less buzzworthy over all. A million dollars for a trade show booth is small change for these companies, but it’s hard to really say they got their money’s worth.

Well, that about wraps it up here. Tomorrow, it’s back to work, and back to helping all of you make the most of the consumer electronics you already have. Thanks for reading!