Beyond The CES Floor: All About the Digitization Of Consumer Devices (And Life Itself)

For folks trying to understand consumers and marketing and the future of electronics and technology, Las Vegas and the mammoth CES took center stage this week, just as in years past. Everyone wants to know (at least, according to the pundits) about the next smartphones, tablets, connected TV’s, 4K TVs (Four times more pixelization), handheld gaming devices, music players, smart forks, cars that drive themselves, programmable drones and 3D printers that can output everything from car parts to animal organs. More than 150,000 people from around the world come here to see these products.

I am here because I believe that understanding the transformation of consumer electronics is critical if you run any business today. I am also here because the world of media, advertising and marketing has recognized the show’s importance and have descended en masse, with no small thanks to the work of groups like Medialink to build great programming and parties; media agencies like Publicis/Vivaki, IPG Mediabrands and WPP’s Group M, who convene their clients here; media owners like Scripps Food Network and CBS/Cnet, with strong, on-site presences for their companies; and trusted individuals like Jack Myers and Shelly Palmer to help summarize and translate what happens here.

Of course, it’s not just what happens on the exhibit floor. A lot is happening at informal meetings, meals and parties. After checking out the floor and the informal scene, here are some of my early, high-level thoughts about what all these technology developments might mean:

Internet as omni-utility for life and devices. You don’t need to see more than the smart fork to realize that we are finally seeing the manifestation of the Internet as an omni-utility, digitally linking all electronic devices in our lives together and enabling them all to be smart and operate in a coordinated fashion. “Plug-and-play” interoperability – driven by Internet protocols – is now becoming the norm. The device-to-device Internet -- within the home, between the home and the car, between the home and the car and your mobile devices, etc. -- will be an enormous growth area over the next five years. It is critical to see the emerging connected devices not just as media or marketing channels, but as powerful consumer utilities. We have barely started scratching the surface of understanding what that will bring.

The true power of smart, connected TVs may be in their in “back-end,” not front-end. TV-based apps are not yet a story for marketers -- consumers barely use them at this point -- but most of the major TV manufacturers are deploying opt-in anonymous video/ad viewing and direct video/ad viewing measurement within millions of the devices. This will transform TV and cross-platform measurement, encompassing not only better multichannel TV measurement, but linking it to all DVR, VOD streaming, and IP-based Web and mobile browsing and e-commerce.

Mobile apps are more important for TV viewing than TV apps. Watch carefully the growing sector of TV-related apps on phones, tablets and PCs and their ability to enhance the TV viewing experience -- for example, Twitter, GetGlue/Viggle, Shazam, etc. Also, we’re seeing the emergence of apps that are making mobile devices serve as TV remote controllers. All these apps will probably have a much bigger impact on TV over the next year or two than any apps on the TV themselves.

Consumer electronics companies may have challenges “getting” media. Many folks are wondering whether consumer electronics companies like Samsung, LG, Sony, Intel, etc. will be able to execute against the data and device-driven digital media strategies that they are rumored to be pursuing. Most folks believe these companies are chasing these new strategies because they have to 1) keep up with Apple, and 2) find a way to enhance the anemic margins that they get out of hardware alone. But none of them have shown an ability yet to execute well in the intersection of hardware, software and media. Sony, for example, has never been able to build synergy between its media and consumer electronics divisions, despite having market-leading positions in both for decades.

What are you hearing (or seeing) about CES? Please use the comments below to share.

Tags: technology
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3 comments about "Beyond The CES Floor: All About the Digitization Of Consumer Devices (And Life Itself)".
  1. Christopher Sanders from Simulmedia , January 10, 2013 at 3:56 p.m.
    - I see alot of muddy price/positioning between a "thin client" (Win 8 RT/Android, iOS) tablet devices that have a keyboard (supplanting "netbooks") versus a solid state Ultra-book with detachable/touchscreen/convertible screens (and a full, std O/S). . .there is alot of similarity in feature sets between the two but not a clear difference in price . . .the processing and battery life issues (that are differences) will be missed by consumers just looking at the devices form factors and elegance/convenience. - Touch is the new primary way to interface with devices . . . - TVs are just getting bigger and thinner . . .I love a big, thin, high rez TV . . .but is hard to see 110" TV anywhere except Steven Speilberg's house or the CES floor . . .and the resolution of 4K looks great but really hard to tell between that an a 1080p to the average person . . .and the apps pieces lack business designs for anyone to scale business/revenue except for Apple . . . TV makers are going to struggle to add value to TVs but smart app developers who come up with a scalable business design to take advantage of a TVs IP connection can stand to win big $ and Sony, et al should be looking to acquire some . . . - Auto guys are getting more sophisticated than Intel, HP and MSFT . . .the tech pieces they are looking to put standard into cars took a major leap this year . . .still some years out before they are more ubiquitous but I am never "buying" another new car . .ever . . .I will be leasing so I can more easily keep up with the tech so I can upgrade my car every 2 years or so . . .like my smartphone(s) . . .
  2. John Ellett from nFusion Group , January 10, 2013 at 5:15 p.m.
    I like your summary of CES and why it is important to marketers. I posted some thoughts about one of the hot items you mentioned - tablets. I believe marketers are underestimating the value of optimizing their programs for over 200 million tablet users globally. Here's a link to additional thoughts on the subject. http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnellett/2013/01/10/ces-highlight-2-tablets/
  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , January 10, 2013 at 11:17 p.m.
    And then you can wonder why you are gaining weight before you find out your fork was hacked.