CES 2013 preview: The love and hate of the greatest (tech) show on earth
With just weeks to go before the massive Consumer Electronics Show, I'm going to predict exactly what we'll see -- with 100 percent accuracy.
This will be my 13th CES. Fewer than many, more than some. It's a grueling marathon of press conferences, swarming crowds, and endless lines.
When it comes to TV tech, David's take onis spot-on. I'm going to go one better, though. I'm going predict with stunning, remarkable, mind-blowing accuracy, exactly what we'll see at the show of shows.
1. 4K, 8K, 12K, ∞K
I've gotten a lot of flak for my position on 4K, and 99 percent of it is from people not reading what I wrote, yet assuming they know what I said. Let me be very clear: 4K the resolution is awesome... for large screens. I have a 102-inch screen, and I'd love 4K and 4K content. But . And when I say "TV" I'm talking about the TVs most people buy, like 50 inches and smaller. At that size, 4K is pointless because your eye can't resolve it. Annnnnd I know what the first 20 comments to this post are going to be about.
But we're going to see more 4K Ultra HD. We're going to see 8K and probably more. If you read or hear from anyone that saw these ultra-ultra resolution displays, ask them how close they were standing.
2. OLED, FFS OLED
For frak's sake (yes, that's a PG-rated "FFS"), OLED to us this year. I don't care what the problems are, I want my and I want it now <stamps feet and pouts>. We better hear more about OLED, with pricing and a date. My guess? We'll be hearing from at least one new player -- perhaps the unholy alliance of Panasonic and Sony? OLED is way more interesting than 4K, as it represents better picture quality overall, not just higher resolution. Ultra HD is like putting better tires on a car. Sure it's an improvement, but the rest of the car is the same. OLED is an entirely new and better car
Now before I continue, I feel I should explain something. When I and anyone else from CNET goes to CES, we're there to work. We're not "going to Vegas," we're going to CES, which just happens to be in Las Vegas. Our lives, for the most part, consist of hotel-transportation-convention center-transportation-hotel. I'm sure some gamble or see shows, but honestly, there's very little time. This isn't a vacation; we're there to work, we have to be there, and we have a lot to see. So, with that in mind...
3. Crappy press conferences
Press conferences are an awful, life-crushing experience. Imagine the most crowded room you've ever been in, crammed full of often smelly humanity of all shapes and sizes, filling every available space. Now, sit through a PowerPoint presentation detailing the sales figures of washers and dryers over the third quarter in Belize, Guatemala, and Qatar. Then, after your brain has seized up in some kind of Darwinian protection response, there's 32 seconds at the end covering all 1,700 new TV models. What? You feel asleep? You missed a model number? Too bad, because now you have to make a mad dash down the hall so you can squeeze into another hot and humid room with 3,000 of your closest frenemies and do it all over again.
The terribleness is not one person's fault. These are big companies, and I'm sure those tasked with creating these monstrosities work hard to make them as painless as possible. Then, after they've spent weeks crafting the perfect message and an entertaining experience, their boss informs them that her boss wants to speak at CES for 15 of the 45 allotted minutes on the company's "direction."
I can sit through about two press conferences per year; after that it devolves into an MST3K-style tweetfest mocking life, the universe, and everything. It's miraculous that I've never been fired (sort of).
4. No Wi-Fi
We landed a nuclear-powered SUV with frickin' laser beams on Mars, and we still can't get enough Wi-Fi bandwidth for the world's most obvious problem? After all the press conference nonsense, good luck trying to tell the world. Wi-Fi at 100 baud -- rockin'! I'm not asking to stream HD videos of kittens snoring, but being able to post text to a Web site would be nice. You know -- my job?
Lines for cabs. Lines for the monorail. Lines for food. Lines for elevators. Lines for cars (also called "traffic"). Lines for lines. You've walked 12 miles covering the show. All you want to do is go back to your overpriced, ugly hotel room and take your shoes off. It's two miles away. It takes you an hour to get there.
6. Questionable hygiene
Look, I know we Americans are typically "overshowered" compared to inhabitants of most countries, but dammit, put on some deodorant. You're getting shoved in beside other people for hours on end; have some human decency.
7. No one washes their hands!!!
More than half the men leaving the bathroom don't wash their hands. Not an exaggeration. Not a joke. I've seen it with my own eyes at every CES I've been to so far.
8. OMG #7
Look, I understand some people, for myriad reasons, don't have the ability to carry a heavy backpack or satchel around all day. But if you're toting around a rollybag, I hate you. So does everyone else. The normal human takes up about four square feet of floor space. Carting around a rollybag, that area triples. Not only are you wasting precious space on an already crowded floor, you're doing it down out of normal sightlines. At every show, I trip over someone's rollybag and nearly take a header. I've seen countless people fall over them and land hard. These abominations should be banned completely.
And wait a second: what are you toting around that's so heavy and important anyway? Iron Man's suit? Thor's hammer? What? I have a $275 laptop that weighs less than three pounds, plus I carry a real camera and two big lenses, and all of that fits in a bag a kid could carry. (Hmmm, now there's an idea....) This rolling episode of "Hoarders" has to stop. It's dangerous.
As I said earlier, most of us at the show are here to work. Some of us cover so many different product categories, that we're literally running from place to place to place to attempt to see everything we need to -- and we won't, it's futile. There's a percentage of people who, apparently, have absolutely nothing to do while they're there. They meander, shuffling slowly around the show with no direction, no straight line. They're speedbumps for those of us who move with a purpose. Hey, whatever you want to do at CES is none of my business, but at least don't walk four abreast with your buddies, blocking aisles. And please, please, please -- move to the side.
Which brings me to my last point. If this is your first CES, I wrote Ten Tips for the CES Noob for S+V last year, and it's still current (not to mention one of my more favorite articles).
OK, now that all of that is out of my system, I have to say this: The drive to Vegas for CES is one of my favorite days of year. Just a flat-out high-speed burn through Berdoo, Barstow, and Baker. Up the hill, cresting to reveal that unmistakable, incongruous valley, ever growing, ever changing.
The truth is, despite the toll on mind and body, I love CES. It's exciting. We see cool stuff. I get to spend time with friends and co-workers I only see a few times a year. The food is excellent -- seriously.
It occurs to me that every annoyance I've complained about stems from the fact that I have to actually work at the show. A Catch-22 if I've ever seen one. I'd love to go to CES if I didn't have to work, but if I wasn't working, I couldn't go to CES.
Maybe I'll figure it out next year.
Got a question for Geoff? Send him an e-mail! If it's witty, amusing, and/or a good question, you may just see it in a post just like this one. No, he won't tell you which TV to buy. Yes, he'll probably truncate and/or clean up your e-mail. You can also send him a message on Twitter: @TechWriterGeoff.