I hoped that the tone of my time here at CES would not be set by the first thing I saw when I walked into the Venetian from the garage:
AAAAAAUUUGGGHHHHHHH MY EYES
Okay, maybe he’s not THAT offensive, but I was a little cranky. I’d driven from home to Vegas straight through, four hours and thirty minutes on the dot, no pit stops, and I just wanted to get started with the festivities. David Spade was not on my list of must-sees.
I come to Las Vegas once or twice a year for work, and I suppose the Strip would be different for me if I was a) a celebrity or b) rich. I am neither. But I kinda sorta like it here, as an observer more than a participant. True, the city sometimes seems, and smells, like the World’s Largest Ash Tray, but the people-watching is spectacular, almost Fellini-esque; It’s less “The Hangover” than a party at a really bad frat, populated by every type of person known to exist. It’s Ed Hardy and Armani in the same space. It’s celebrities ordering Cristal in Costco volume from roped-off VIP tables a short walk from a food court featuring Nathan’s. It’s busloads of tourists from every nation on the globe trooping past a long queue of cranky tech journalists waiting to get into a press event at CES.
But I’m getting ahead of things.
First came the annual welcoming presentation by the Consumer Electronics Association, and their prediction for the Big Thing at this show was — you’ll never guess — tablets. Great, thanks for coming, drive home safely! We knew that, of course. It’s all about tablets this year, and that’s as expected. I’m more interested in in-car connectivity myself, because it more directly impacts the radio industry, but tablets are hot. Everybody has one. Except me. What people will DO with tablets is another issue; the CEA guys mentioned that “use-case scenarios” for tablets would be an issue at the show, and I think that’s what the companies rushing onto the field ought to be considering first. Unless they’re Apple, they have to convince people that these things aren’t just toys or e-reader alternatives or big smartphones without the phone part but something they really can use in ways that are better than what they use now. It’s less glamorous than showing off the latest and slickest gadgets, but I think that’s the key to selling these things in an economy that’s still not conducive to spending a lot of money on stuff you don’t need.
And then they held an event at which some vendors would be showing off their wares in a preview of the show. This is what it looked like an hour before the doors opened:
Nerds are accustomed to queuing up for stuff. Say the words “new iPhone” and they’ll line up in front of YOU. But I don’t like waiting on line for anything, so this was a little annoying. When I finally got to the door, I discovered what the attractions were: Free stuff, or, if you’re inclined to use cliche slang from several eons ago, schwag. You got an iPhone charging dock right at the door, and booths were offering other gizmos for review. And there was food, tables with shrimp and unidentifiable munchies that didn’t look all that appetizing to me, and drink, of course. The room was a little fetid after a short while, and the crowd, which seemed to include a lot of people who seem to be stretching the definition of “press,” clogged the aisles, making things more than a little uncomfortable. But, hey, free food and drink…. First-world problem, it was.
Plus, there was a portable charger that operated from a user’s own kinetic energy. You shake it and it charges up to provide extra juice for your mobile devices. But its shape and how you shake it up and down, well… meet the next Shake Weight:
And on the way out:
Images: Perry Simon