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CES 2021

There will be no physical Consumer Electronics Show this year. I’m honestly going to miss it.
I loved my annual pilgrimage to the Mecca of technology and gadgets. I’ve been attending for the last dozen or so years (I even did my share of working there when I was employed by Microsoft). I started writing public show reports in 2013. If you want a nostalgic trip back in time, and a glimpse into what was yesterday’s future, pop the kettle on, make a cup of tea, and check out my notes from years’ past.
CES 2020    CES 2019    CES 2018    CES 2017    CES 2016    CES 2015    CES 2014    CES 2013   
Over the last decade, some things stayed essentially the same with just organic gradual improvements (TV’s, phones, washing machines …). Some things died out (like personal cameras; the smart phone market crushed this category), and some new things appeared (like self-driving car tech).
I’m a little surprised that VR (whilst improving), is on a shallower adoption gradient than I first suspected. I postulate that it’s still just not ‘convenient’ enough to get into; To use it, it’s still a performance and a planned activity to do.
Smart watches are doing OK. Drones, and 3D printers, are finding their niches, but neither of these are going to get the market penetration numbers achieved by phones, tablets, TV’s, and watches.

The CES show this year has gone virtual, and I’ve registered so that I have the option to listen, but I never attended to the show for the presentations; I went for the wow factor of the grossly excessive main show floors with TV’s the size of barn doors, and the geeky innovation section where you could interact with enthusiastic developers and makers, eager to show off their inventions.
I also miss laughing at the totally senseless “Internet of pointless things” products. Every year it’s hard to judge what the most pointless mash-ups are. What problems does an internet connected toilet brush solve, when it reminds you it’s time to clean the bowl, then judges you on your performance, and allows you to graph the performance on your phone over time? The battery will probably be flat unless you religiously charge it in, then it will typically stop working at least three times, requiring a firmware update until the company loses all their funding, then it will either brick, or be hijacked by a malware botnet into doing something it should not.
Also, it seems every single team sending products to the show floor has read the same marketing book. Every single announcement follows the same format “The World’s First Connected ______ !”
“The World’s First Connected ______ !”
I really don’t care if it is the first. I want it to be the best. You want to drive the World’s best car, not the World’s first car. You want to use the World’s most reliable parachute, not the World’s first parachute. You want to eat in the best/efficient/cleanest/value-for-money/tastiest fast-food restaurant, not the first one. I don’t use the World’s first Internet browser anymore, nor the World’s first digital camera. Sure, highlight your innovation, and show you are on the bleeding edge, but for a product to be great, well, it has to be great!
It also has to solve a problem. Connecting something to the internet, just because you can, is not a good enough reason.
I hope the show floor returns in 2022, and I am around to visit it.