CES. Oh Yes.

Jan 05, 2014 No Comments by

It’s that time again; not just that we recommence posting after several months’ hiatus, but the shebang we must NOT call the Consumer Electronics Show is about to begin in Las Vegas.  The big news today, though, is that Eusebio has died, closely followed by another set-back for the Chosen One (aka David Moyes) who is now being made to look terminally shite by his underperforming MUFC muppets and also a massive underachiever in his previous tenure at Everton, where Roberto Martinez is doing great things with the same players Moyes left behind.

But back to shiny gadgety things.  International CES, to give it its proper title, kicks off officially on Tuesday but there’s a ton of stuff going on prior, mostly for the great unwashed that is the world’s press and assorted media.  There are few opinion formers who really matter in this respect and TF is assuredly not among them.  The crucial factor is SEO – search engine optimisation – and how the big tech reviews sites such as Cnet and Tech Crunch splurge editorial like geysers so that when punters search for ‘CES’ or associated words, those sites’ bumph comes top of the results, whether your engine of choice is Google, Bing or Yahoo.

CES is now a curious circus, notable more for who chooses to be absent.  Think of the biggest names in consumer electronics, whether in terms of wares hard or soft: Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft.  The first three have never done CES (as far as we know) and Microsoft’s presence here is only semi-official; they’ve taken space at The Venetian, rather than on the official show floor as in previous years.  Samsung and LG try to outdo each other in a ‘my stand’s bigger than your stand (blow raspberry)’ kind of way, and sad sacks like Panasonic and Sony try to persuade the unbelievers that their businesses are in great shape.  It must be tricky to explain, if you’re Sony’s CEO, to every media that matters why Microsoft’s Xbox has outsold the latest Sony Playstation but Kazuo Hirai will try on Tuesday morning.  Likewise Panasonic will doubtless emphasise how it dominates the low end camera market and nothing else, and how that market, though microscopically teensy by comparison with smartphones and tablets, is really, really important.

It might be assumed that all you consumers out there are unfeasibly fickle in terms of your buying preferences because it’s certainly the case that both Panasonic and Sony make some lovely products, notably TVs.  Thing is, profit margins on TVs are small (it’s why Phillips and Pioneer don’t make them any more), and people don’t consume TVs in the same way they do smartphones and tablets. Panasonic are trying to do some below-the-radar diversification by getting into automotive tech when the word on the wire is that wearable, self-monitoring devices and 3-D printing are where the new cash will flow.

Meanwhile, here’s a thought, a free offer from Tech Fogey: sell TVs in packages – one big one and four smaller ones, so you can festoon an entire house with TVs.  A lot of consumers have done this, piecemeal, rather than in one go. Does anyone offer such a package?  Of course not.  Likewise, if you’re starting out furnishing a new home, you might go to Ikea and buy a big box full of crockery and cutlery, pots and pans – basically everything you need to equip a kitchen.  Do any of the big appliance manufacturers do this?  Samsung and LG both make pretty much every electrical appliance your home might require, but neither sells a starter package to new homers. Or are we just being naieve? Is selling bulky, heavy things never going to be the way forward?  Is that why an Apple TV set has still not emerged?

Doing the right thing, when it comes to buying electronic goodies, is a minefield and buyer’s remorse is all too common – bought the wrong toy, paid too much etc – and with the plethora of available goodies on offer, competition for your attention is fierce but here’s our prediction, for what it’s worth: trusted sources.

Beats Music – the music streaming service set up by the headphone brand – is relying on ‘curation by trusted sources’ to set its service apart from Spotify and the rest.  The idea is that human beings you might know, like and respect will be putting together playlists, rather than some spotty nerd’s algorithm.  Beats has been a phenomenon not just because the headphones were good (-ish) but because they were associated with human beings beings; Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine.  Beats Music’s ‘chief creative officer’ is Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.

Steve Jobs was a trusted source and a prime curator of your digital life.  It’s been said he was a show-man and a fantastic on-stage communicator but that’s bollocks.  What isn’t bollocks is that you trusted his judgement, which was rarely wide of the mark.

Who do you trust at Sony, Microsoft, BlackBerry or Panasonic?  Who is Microsoft’s Dr Dre, or Sony’s Jonathan Ive?

It’s about people, people.


PS – apologies for this post rambling around a bit.  We’re blaming jet lag and too much coffee.