We’ve managed to stuff another Consumer Electronics Show into the history books (and no doubt consuming more than a few terabytes of Internet storage along the way with all that’s been posted about it). So let me make one last entry to sum it all up.
First, this year leaves no doubt that CES is the premier technology show in this country, and not just for “consumer electronics”. The IT products that used to appear at Comdex have clearly found a home here, and there were plenty of vertical niche technology companies displaying their products as well.
Second, while the exhibit area actually shrank slightly this year, I think it would still take a team of at least five people spending two to three days each to adequately cover the entire show. I limited myself to just two halls, and still did not manage to walk past every booth in two days. It’s that big.
Now, most people would probably single out the 3DTV announcements as being the top story for HDTV and home entertainment. I agree that this is a huge topic, but I don’t think that 3D is likely to have much impact in the home for at least another two years. Instead, I think that the was an announcement that was made that is more likely to sell a lot of televisions (and related products) in the next two years. I already wrote about this in my first CES post for this year, but it bears repeating: Skype in televisions.
Why is this such a big deal? I like to say that men care what their HDTVs look like when they’re turned on, but women care more about what they look like when they’re turned off. Now, I admit that this is a gross oversimplification, but there’s plenty of evidence that women in general are less impressed by the technology than men are. Women tend to be focused on relationships and interaction, and less interested in watching nine hours of college basketball on a weekend. So look at what Skype on your TV does; it brings family and friends into your living room through a video phone call. And it’s a free service. And it does not require that you haul in an ugly desktop computer and hook it up to your television in some weird and awkward way. The Skype feature is built in, and making a call is not much harder than changing channels.
The Skype on TV feature is one that women are going to love, once they know it’s there and understand what it can do for them. LG and Panasonic are the first out of the box with this feature, but you can be sure that others will follow quickly. If they were smart about it, they’ll be running full page ads in Better Homes and Gardens showing grandparents talking to their children and grandchildren on their television, with the grandmother holding the remote control. This feature alone easily could sell more sets in the next two years than 3D. It’s a big deal.