As the 2013 International CES (no longer officially the "Consumer Electronics Show") winds down in Las Vegas, a few observations.
- The show broke records in terms of show floor space--1.9 million square feet-- and attendance--150,000 people. The show felt much more crowded than it did last year. Long lines, very crowded show floor, etc.
- Noticeable was the continued absence of Apple and the absence on the show floor this year of an official Microsoft booth(s), this after Balmer announced Microsoft's withdrawal from the show last year. The official absence of both Apple and Microsoft felt like there were a couple of huge holes in the show. Given the empty conceptual space, if you will, the view provided--however broad and deep--has important limitations, chief among them is that it's not possible to leave the show with a reasonably complete picture of the "space."
- At the same time, Microsoft did have a substantial presence, but one had to look for it in the products of Microsoft's partners in the smartphone, PC, tablet, and other verticals.
- DRM remains alive and well in the TV / video / Blu-ray / Xbox / mobile space. The major smart TV vendors (LG, Samsung and then Panasonic, Sony, and may Sharp) remain committed to controlling video content, especially streaming movies, TV shows, and the like.
- Dish, Verizon, Comcast and other cable / satellite operators share and support the same commitments to protecting high value video content.
- The smart TV vendors, home networking equipment vendors, purveyors of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, PC vendors, etc. remain focused on catching up to Apple's seamless Airplay and its underlying technologies. While there has been some improvement in user convenience and any-to-any content access and 2nd, 3rd, and 4th screens, the offerings have in general not quite caught up with Airplay / iTunes / IOs integration. Another couple of years perhaps?
- In other areas, the Samsung and LG OLED TVs were just as spectacular this year as last. The prices remain high (12K as I recall), but stunning picture quality and elegance will make OLEDs the TV of choice for those who can afford them. As manufacturing yield rates improve, prices will decline to more readily affordable levels, hopefully.
- There was a lot of hype this year about 4K LED TVs, with 4x the number of pixals in a given area. They are noticeably sharper and thus the pictures are more detailed than standard LEDs, but OLEDs provide noticeably better (to my eyes) picture quality. One problem with 4K TVs is the bandwidth required to stream content that looks that much better on these TVs. Some vendors were showing optical disk players and other devices that upleveled the video to 4K pixel density. I suspect that savy purchasers will wait for the price of OLEDs to come down a bit and skip the 4K offerings.