The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the biggest trade show in the United States, officially kicks off Tuesday in Las Vegas. It’s where any consumer tech company worth its gadgets — okay, perhaps not any — showcases its latest and greatest innovations. But many in the tech coverage world are less than enthusiastic, eliciting what could be deemed a collective yawn in the face of what ZDNet’s Andrew Nusca called the “Super Bowl” for consumer technology.
The organizers are, of course, pumped. In an interview with The Post’s Steven Overly, Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro said, “We’ve successfully positioned ourselves as the innovation event for the year, so we have a diverse set of industries represented. ... Consumer electronics does not begin to describe what’s at the show, frankly.”
That may be the case, but consumer electronics are still the leading — if not the only — reason people attend and follow the event. And a brief tour of the Web’s tech blogs shows that not everyone agrees that CES will deliver when it comes to cutting-edge innovation.
“CES is a waste of anyone’s time who is going there,” writes ZDNet Tech Broiler’s Jason Perlow. Perlow, who writes that he will not be attending the event this year, predicts that less than half of the products presented at CES will make it to market. The marketplace, he argues, is controlled by a shrinking number of online and brick-and-mortar retailers; products have started to become increasingly similar, and Apple’s big product announcement comes after CES. Once it does, he continues, it will likely send companies that announced products in Vegas scrambling back to the drawing board.
“CES 2013 is an illusion, a ‘Hunger Games’ with few surviving winners,” he concludes.
ReadWrite’s Dan Lyons takes it a step further, calling CES “the most horrific waking nightmare in every techie’s life.” Lyons will be attending this year after years of refusing to attend the conference. He has discovered one redeeming factor to what he describes as the “the regular old 10th circle of hell” — finding the absolute worst product at the conference.
Then there’s Mark Hachman, also of ReadWrite, who outlines the 6 reasons that this year’s could be “the most boring CES ever,” Among them the wave of “crap,” including USB keys, notebook sleeves and smartphone cases that “dominate huge swaths of CES’s show floor.”
But not all tech writers are grumbling in the face of CES. The Verge’s Joshua Topolsky writes that the conference is “the most wonderful time of the year. If you like CES. Or consumers. Or electronics. Or shows.” Okay, perhaps it’s not the most robust cheer one could make, but it’s certainly a few steps up from Dante’s “Inferno.”
Grousing and yawns aside, the next great gadget may very well debut at CES, but few appear to be holding their breath. For those who are attending (I am not), then it will likely prove to be an entertaining and informative time — even if only to see who has the worst USB keys and smartphone cases. But the innovations that stand to most excite me, and I presume others in the coming year, will not be in 3D televisions and toothbrushes that pulse the latest hits from Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga directly into your bicuspids. Instead, the highly anticipated innovations will most likely be those that solve seemingly intractable problems such as sanitation in the developing world, sustainable agriculture and data privacy.
Point me in the direction of that conference.
Kolawole is the editor of Ideas@Innovations.
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