Stop the CES madness
NEW YORK – That dateline is right: I’m not at the Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. I’m in good company: Apple, Amazon, Google – global superpowers in tablets, the dominant tech of our time – aren’t there this year, and have never been any other. Microsoft gave the primary keynote last year, but that was its swan song at this relic in the desert. Somebody else will have to take its space on the convention floor this year.
Truth is, I’ve never made the Hajj to CES. Nevertheless, an estimated 150,000 people are attending (if there’s a God in Heaven CNET’s editorial team of 90 is the most representatives from any single publication). They’re gathering to be dazzled by 33,000 exhibitors there to make sure you understand they are about to revolutionize [their industry here]. Everything from self-driving cars to fast USB sticks will be touted.
The journalists who are there are hoping to press some flesh and discover something in the vast ocean of minutia that that they alone will recognize as truly amazing. But that’s foolish. We no longer need to go anywhere to keep up with technology. Technology ensures everything keeps up with us. When nearly every tech blog on the Internet is flypaper to tech companies, why commute to the hype?
CES has been a fixture on the tech calendar for years, since the very first one in 1967 in New York. New York in January is sort of cold, but it wasn’t until 1998 that the trade show moved exclusively to Vegas, where it might be 108 degrees on the strip but you’ll never know that because you’ll never see the light of day as you roam 1.68 million square feet of air-conditioned exhibition space.
The show has been the venue for trial balloons and countless hopes and dreams. The VCR and DVD were unveiled at CES. So was the Palm Pre. But it has never achieved the status of a single SteveNote – those hot-ticket presentations by Apple’s Steve Jobs, who often spoke about one product and never more than you could count on one hand.
Even the demos that Apple hosts have begun to seem anti-climactic. Gadget press conferences have become relatively rare, and are usually a sign that a manufacturer thinks it may have to manage the message. A company will usually let a product that sells itself go right ahead and do so. Or they’ll balance unpredictable reviews with huge marketing campaigns.
You want buzz? Give Wired’s Steven Levy, the Wall Street Journal‘s Walt Mossberg and the New York Times‘ David Pogue an advance copy and I guarantee if you’ve got something, the buzz will cause genuine production delays. (Also, I’m reviewing tech now for Reuters, so you know…)
One hundred or so tablets have been introduced at CES? I bet you can’t name five, and think only one is any good. Don’t you remember that 3D TV was hyped as the Next Great Thing at CES – not once, but twice in the past three years. Now ultra HD is the rage.
Veteran tech journalists: Just think how much capital you’ll bank by telling your editor you’re sure you can cover CES from your mother’s basement in Bayonne, New Jersey. Newbies: Take a stand by standing pat. What if they gave a convention — and nobody came?