CES2014: Day 1 Trends

Yesterday was the first day of the International CES and what a day it was. We had the chance to walk a few of the halls and we’re glad to give you our perspective. (Hey, we know we can’t beat engadget for the sheer number of pictures, so we’ll just have to dazzle you with insightful commentary.)

Trend #1: A return to reason

At last year’s CES, we finally saw some enthusiasm return to a show that had seemed more and more depressing every year. The nation was finally emerging from a long, painful recession and we were proud to see it displayed all around us.

This year, the emphasis was on getting back to business. If you think about it, all the dreams that we had back at the 2006 CES (the first time anyone on the blog team went to the show) have turned into reality — paper thin giant HDTVs, super-powered phones, location-aware gadgets are all around us. So what’s left? This year the big players came to sell. Where last year Samsung really showed this trend best. Last year’s booth was dominated by dancing TVs, this year the tech giant came to show its near-term products. Almost everything in their enormous booth (it must have been 10,000 square feet) was a product either already on the market or about to be released. They had curved 4K TVs and a supposedly bendable 4K TV (we didn’t get to bend it) but their booth was really all about real product that you could buy now. The same was true of Sony and LG.

Trend #2: Name-calling
It may be silly, but this 4K or Ultra HD revolution isn’t going to take off until the big players decide what to call the thing. We’ve been calling it 4K, and we know that the CEA wants you to call it Ultra HD. Here’s the problem, illustrated quickly and decisively.

Samsung wants you to call it UHD.

Sony wants you to call it 4K.

This is just going to confuse customers and turn off potential buyers who will think that if they buy one thing it won’t be compatible with the other. Please, let’s stop the nonsense. For the record we think Ultra HD is a stupid name so let’s get back to 4K.

Trend #3: Flat TVs that aren’t that thin

Sony and Samsung have figured out that not everyone hangs a TV on the wall and they are coming out with full lines of TVs that aren’t really thin or light at all. The curved TVs sit on stands and are about 2x the thickness of traditional TVs. Even the oversize flat TVs like the one shown above are distinctly pudgy. This gives designers some flexibility to allow for bigger speakers and spend less time on restrictive packaging, but here on the blog team, we think this is just a copout, a way for manufacturers to get you to stop thinking thin so they can pass off chunky TVs.

Trend #4: Wearables? So What?
We saw a lot of prototype wearables but for the most part they didn’t do a lot. Some were disguised as fitness devices, some were smartphone accessories, but there was astoundingly little interest in this segment of the market. It’s not surprising considering that we’ve already seen research saying people just don’t care about wearables.

Oh and one thing, it’s hard to say why but when you see someone wearing Google Glass (and there are quite a few) it just makes them look like a jerk. We don’t want to be judgmental here but seriously.

Trend #5: Oh how the mighty have fallen.

In 2006, Creative was the darling of the show. Their Sound Blaster line of desktop sound cards was still the primo choice for top notch enthusiasts and their MP3 players were every bit as good as Apple’s for less money. (In fact, you may remember that Apple settled a lawsuit claiming that the iPod’s interface was a dumbed-down version of the Creative Zen.)

Eight years later Creative occupied a sad corner of the show floor in a small, largely empty booth filled with bluetooth speakers. The primary demonstration, seen above, was a Japanese-accented man showing how Creative’s products could make a man’s voice sound like a woman’s. Sometimes the best thing to do is stop trying.

Well, that’s day 1! Keep watching our twitter feed @SolidSignalCom and reading here for the latest news and views… the stuff you won’t get from “the big boys.”

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.