It's been a long time since my last visit to CES and Las Vegas in general, a long time since I walked down the strip to Sin City, and pounded the concrete pavement of what is now the world's largest consumer electronics show. And I can tell you, in the 10 years since I have been here, Vegas has changed faster than Joan Rivers face has in over 10 decades.
Slideshow: Cool Products from CES 2012
Slideshow: The Best of CES 2012
Slideshow: Videos from CES
It struck me about half-way through my second day at CES, that the show was the perfect microcosm for what I saw in Las Vegas in general, which was a situation of completely uncontrolled and never ending corporate sprawl and overcrowding, with no foreseeable plan or future vision of maintainability and maturation. Here was the ultimate paradigm of consumerism run amok, running headlong into an unsustainable future of perpetual growth.
As I walked down the Vegas strip my first few days, I was stunned to see the sprawl that Las Vegas had become. I had already been witness to the new infusion of corporate resorts during the 90s, but what I saw now was casinos and towers packed into every conceivable angle and direction.
Lost in a wilderness of endless casino mazes I wandered like a meandering Bedouin desperate for an oasis of sanity and calm. Passing through gauntlets of pushers clicking and shoving cards for escorts and strip clubs in my face, I dodged and weaved my way to a safe harbor and a cold Margarita in front of... was this the Caesar's Palace I used to know so well? The old roadside attractions of the Mirage Volcano and the Treasure Island Pirate Ships were hard to find and hidden by growth, and barely functioning.
Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings at CES 2012
For us old timers, Vegas was always a destination of fun and cost-efficient debauchery. Cheap buffets and free drinks were plentiful; all intended to ply the weary traveler from his hard earned dollars at various gambling tables and slot machines. But those days are long gone, watered down drinks now cost $12 a piece, and customer service and perks for the common Joe are practically non-existent.
I stayed at a top resort hotel, and sadly received some of the worst customer service I have at any level hotel I have stayed at in the world. After 4 days there, a Motel 6 would have been a warm reminder of decency and professionalism. Maids didn't bother to clean rooms, room keys didn't open locked doors, valets seemed to be aiming for pedestrians, and breakfast buffets now went for $25 dollars a head.
The Vegas I remembered and enjoyed in my younger days was long gone, in its place was a churning factory of human consumption, its jaws of greed waiting for unsuspecting travelers and suckers thinking this was anything but a place of abject greed and hucksterism.
After 48 hours, I was ready for CES, ready to get my job done and get back home to something that resembled normalcy and civil human behavior.
My first impression of CES 10 years on was it was a parallel and representative microcosm for what I had seen in Las Vegas over the past few days. A conference and trade show out of control, with no focus or center, spilling out into the streets and parking lots of the Las Vegas Convention Center, an endless stream of buyers, exhibitors, press, analysts, wandering in a frenzied haze of electronically-induced delirium. Buses and vans could not even make it to the conference center, we got waylaid and stopped before we could make it to the North Hall. Our frazzled bus driver apologized as he dropped us off in the middle of an abandoned alley of a burnt out In-and-Out Burger.
Hours were spent the night before trying to find a path through the insanity, mapping out a walking path to find products that may be of interest to our discerning tech-savvy audience. Weaving my way through an infinite set of booths of iPhone and iPad custom cases and accessories, I finally came upon some golden treasures that any respectable technologist would have found of interest.
All kidding aside, I'll turn off the sarcasm filter for a minute and say that both Las Vegas and CES are really a lot of fun, in spite of all the drawbacks. They are both once in a lifetime experiences that no one should miss, and there really is nothing like it on earth. CES has some of the most fun and interesting products and spectacles, and I really did find some great items I'd like to call out a bit. Check some of these out when you can.
Ultrabooks are really cool, glad to see computer manufactures making this a focus, I think they are much more flexible for working purposes than tablets. I was also really impressed with some of the new Windows Mobile phones, and the new display technology was incredible, and I can tell you right now that OLED is a stunning visual experience.
Viva Las Vegas!
A slick looking phone the demonstrators would not allow out of their hands, this may help to boost up Nokia and Metro's profile for the buying public. It has a 4.3-inch AMOLED screen, 800 x 480 resolution, and support for LTE/4G cellular. The hardware includes a Qualcomm 1.4GHz CPU and 512MB of RAM. No pricing as of yet.
This signal booster from Wilson Electronics may be just what you need in the car or at home/office to get a better mobile signal. It works on conventional 2G and 3G networks, as well as the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network. The manufacturer claims the booster will extend battery life and give you 20 times the power of your standard phone in terms of signal.
Ultralights and Ultrabooks were by far the most interesting thing at CES this year, and Samsung has some very slick devices. The Series 5 has 13 and 14-inch models that come with 1.6 GHz i5 CPUs, 4 GB of DDR3 RAM, 500 GB HDD, HDMI, and USB 3.0 connectors. The 14 inch is the only ultrabook of that size to have an optical drive. Pricing starts at $900.
Slideshow: CES 2012 Ultrabooks and Tablets
With the Consumerization of IT and the BYOD trend, VMWare has come out with their Mobile Virtualization Platform. It allows you to use a single mobile device and switch environments for both personal and professional use. With VMware MVP, a personal profile and a corporate profile can securely and simultaneously run on the same device in isolated containers. Corporate applications and data are securely isolated from an employee's personal profile.
Not as high profile as some of the other tablet entries, these devices were sleek and impressive, with aggressive price points. Archos tablets come in 8" and 10.1" models, ARM Corex dual-core processors up to 1.5 GHz, 250 GB HDD, Android 3.2 Honeycomb, 720p front camera, Integrated GPS, and 3G/Wifi. Pricing starts at $269.
This, from my perspective, was the stand out feature of the show. OLED technology is nothing short of incredible, the color representation, the shadows, the deep and accurate blacks, this was stunning. I saw both regular OLED and the 3D, which was the best home 3D tech I had seen. This bad boy is 4mm thick, weighs 7.5 kg, and had viewing angles better than any set I have seen. Plain and simple, this is the future of TV technology. I can't wait to pick one up. No pricing as of yet.