CES 2013, a major industry transition point?

Posted: 01.15.13

Aren’t they all? Not necessarily

So, what have we learned from CES 2013 that we didn’t know before? Most of us now know that Las Vegas is not as much fun as it’s cracked up to be. I will also say there are some LV vets who can show you a thing or two about Las Vegas. You can have a much better time, but it might be better for your health if you stayed away from those people. Otherwise you’ll be waking up with a Karaoke hangover. For that reason, I’m not going to tell you who they are.

The trends we noted in this issue are these:
• Game devices, more game devices than you can shake a stick at, assuming you’re given to doing that sort of thing.
• Smart TVs
• Smart Cars
• Cameras with WiFi and touch interfaces
• Tablets, lots of tablets. (Got a stick?)

The explosion of game devices is new-ish. There have always been a few odd little devices here and there, but the industry is at a clear inflection point as consoles age and gaming changes. A similar time happened when the world waited for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. And they all disappeared without a trace.

The rest of the list, TVs, cars, tablets, and cameras aren't that different from CES shows of the past three years. CES attendees pronounced 2010 The Year of the Tablet. Apple had one coming, and the Windows competitors were pretty sure they could compete head-to-head with Apple with Windows 7 tablets. The wildly popular launch of the iPad convinced competitors otherwise and they all scurried back to their drawing boards. CES 2010 turned out to be a dud for tablets other than Apple.

So, this year is the year the forces of Windows strikes back. Good luck to them. Right now, Microsoft is getting push back on its interface. It's ironic. Microsoft has recognized that there is a big base of PC users who'd like to have a tablet but they need Microsoft apps, especially Office, to get the job done. But maybe these people are really a bunch of whiners who have trouble adapting to change, because the biggest complaint is they can’t find the start button on the Windows 8 interface.

In the meantime, Apple has captivated a big base with its easy iOS interface, and Google has mounted a huge challenge with a similarly easy interface in Android, which has the huge added advantage of being free.

In fact, 2013 is the year of Android. Android is the common denominator between the hot new products of 2013, even cars, though many of the car makers are avoiding mentioning Android. They'd like to preserve the idea that their approach is unique. However, it makes sense that there be some compatibility between your phone and your car. How many people have already driven around strange neighborhoods with the phone GPS and the car GPS weighing in with an opinion? And, how many have noticed their phone has the more recent data including traffic information? Wouldn't it make sense if the gadgets you travel around with worked a little bit more cooperatively? Wouldn't it make sense if the car could update its system as new information comes along? Wouldn't it be easier if the systems were based on a standard? Those phone vs. car arguments can get pretty annoying.

The popularity of Android in phones is helping the case of Android in TVs, gaming systems, and now, even cameras as manufacturers gravitate towards a free OS that is at once familiar and customizable. To those manufacturers who would customize out all of Android's familiar features: better think twice.

I won't even mention the possibility that new car buyers are forgoing current GPS systems because their phone does a perfectly good job. Well, except that I just mentioned it. The popular devices are the ones that people can instantly figure out.

Android's most obvious triumph at CES 2013 is in smart TVs. It seem as if all the argument about TV over IP has just dribbled as TVs makers increasingly take advantage of Android as an interface, and content providers recognize the inevitability of IP over TV and race to get a little incremental revenue out of their content from channels like Amazon, Netflix, and iTunes.

Even cameras are getting Android interfaces. First they were getting WiFi to enable people to share their photos via social media. Now, camera makers are looking at Android to make it easier for their customers to figure out how to get those photos posted or printed. Is it a phone? Is it a camera?

Whatever it is, it increasingly has Android underneath and with 2013, a big chunk of the digital world is going to revolving around Android.