Posted by Matt Egan 08 January 2015
Why going to CES to hunt for that wearable smart fork internet of things drone is lazy and misses the point
CES is not about hunting for cool gadgets. It's much more important than that. (See also: 10 trends and products from CES 2014 that are cool, weird, and stupid.)
I am intrigued by the coverage afforded to CES Las Vegas. Not the volume of that coverage, nor the fact that it now leaks into the mainstream press. CES is important, just as consumer tech is important to consumers. And we are all consumers.
Each year CES tells us exactly what manufacturers will hope to sell us nine months hence, in the all-important fourth quarter of this year. So although neither wearables nor 4K TVs has yet become a popular mainstay, this year's CES shows us that the major tech manufacturers desperately hope they will be come Christmas 2015. And if your home isn't smart yet, they sure want it to be by New Year's Eve.
A couple of years ago at CES you couldn't move for tablets or 3D TVs. Neither has been the success the industry hoped, but we knew they were going to try when they went big at CES. In fact, the failures are often the most significant development. I may never forget the night in 2010 when Steve Ballmer opened CES with a somewhat desperate attempt to hype the HP Slate, and breathe life into the then moribund tablets market. Microsoft and HP will forever deny it, but I'm certain that they knew Apple had something up its sleeve, and what felt like a very weird keynote was an attempt not to be caught with tech trousers around analogue ankles.
(In fact when Apple launched the iPad in the April of that year the big shock was that it was a big iPhone rather than a small MacBook. Something that has now come full circle with the proliferation of hybrid Windows devices on show at CES this year. You may not want to buy one, but CES 2015 tells us that Microsoft and Intel hopes to change your mind.)
CES: a big deal
So I get that CES is a big deal. It is. That's why we have a team of journalists roaming the halls for PC Advisor and Tech Advisor. It's not for their enjoyment of the gaming tables. (Well, not only for that.)
What I find strange is the angle of much of the coverage. Every year we get used to national newspapers and the BBC featuring CES in news stories in which they set out to uncover the 'best' gadget in the show. One year everyone went gaga over the AR Drone. I think it was last year that the smart fork featured in all known media. But the hunt for a cool gadget is lazy and missing the point.
Lazy because - without wishing to pour daylight on magic - that stuff is spoon (or smart fork-) fed to journalists. The AR Drone was a hit a few years ago principally because its marketers paid for it to feature in a journalists-only PR event before CES opened. Any right-thinking hack knows that footage of a drone being flown from an iPhone is a quick route to the front page or the 6 O'Clock news. (The organisers of CES promote 'best gadget' competitions for exactly this reason. The name of the game is press coverage, after all.)
And missing the point because it isn't what's important at CES. The AR Drone is a cool product, now flowering in popularity as drones become the gift du jour for men of a certain age who don't like golf or cycling. But it was never part of any significant tech trend when it made its debut at CES. Nor are any of the 'coolest gadgets at CES' you will see this and every year. Wither the smart fork now? - See also: What is the Internet of Things? (And why most of what we saw at CES 2014 is the 'Internet of Stuff'.)
Taking the fun out of tech
I'm not being a killjoy. Or rather, I know I am being a killjoy. I revel in killing joy. But I do understand that 'look at this cool wearable smart fork drone we found' is more likely to briefly divert the attention of the average punter than is a worthy dissection of tech trends for the coming year. It's just not what we go to CES to do.
Over on PC Advisor you will find technical, accessible, first-look reviews of products that we think you will be buying later this year. Products and prototypes that tell us now what will be important over the next 12 months, and why. Devices from which we can divine the likely success or failure of putative tech trends, reviews on which we can expand and develop when we get to spend more time with consumer release products.
So if you want to know what is *really* important at CES, stay tuned to PCAdvisor.co.uk/reviews, and check out reviews such as the LG G Flex 2, the Toshiba Satellite Click Mini, the ZTE Star II and the Sony SmartEyeglass. Actual products, actually important. And, yes, pretty cool.