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CES 2011: The title match of tech

CBS CMO George Schweitzer is back from CES 2011 and gives his thoughts on what was big at this year's show.


We're back from Vegas and it's time to process the dizzying amount of intelligence we gathered at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. The biggest takeaway: TV is bigger and better than ever! Whether it's 3D, 2D, flat, or razor-thin, no matter how you measure it, the TV set is still the top dog at CES.

That's great news for those of us in the TV biz and the TV marketing world. Because what do all those TVs need? Great content and people who know how to market it.


Among the standout themes this year was "Connected TV." For the uninitiated, that is content and programming delivered to screens via the Internet (rather than over cable or broadcast airwaves). LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, and Toshiba all showed off networked flat-panel connected televisions with app stores built in. Cool? Definitely. Confusing? Potentially. When consumers get the latest and greatest Internet-connected sets, they may have yet another layer of information to contend with when they hit the "on" button.

To that end, I gave a presentation at CES entitled "Conquering Content Chaos." It was part of the Entertainment Matters conference track and focused on the problem and opportunity of excess programming choice. The main takeaway: creating the best content is still the most important step in the television marketing process. People don't watch technology; they watch programs. (Scroll down to watch the video of that presentation.)

And as we saw at this year's show, TV's wingman, the Internet, is increasingly mobile. Smartphones and tablets are becoming people's preferred companion devices while watching television. To capitalize upon the trend, television manufacturers like Vizio are introducing tablets and smartphones to round out the multiscreen ecosystem. We love the addition of new platforms that enhance the viewing experience and spread the virtual water cooler faster and wider.


Not everything in CES is huge and sweeping, however. Beyond the million-dollar displays, the plush carpet, and the dazzling video screens lay one of my personal favorites: a simple display from HomeSeer. This is home automation software--and a terrific product. The HomeSeer guys, Rich Helmke, Mark Colegrove, and Rick Tinker, held court for their customers and prospects. I got hooked on this a few years ago and it has made integrating all my home automation functions a lot of fun--HVAC, security, irrigation, energy management, lighting, and audio visual--you name it. Along with a great product, the company offers a great product community; the HS boards are filled with helpful connections and after a while you get to know who's who and what's what. I like to tinker, and this is my hobby. While some may say, "That stuff scares me," I treat it like golf; it's a mind game. And the more you do it, the better you are! Hooray for HomeSeer.


Also tucked away in the South Hall lower level was a rare exhibition of remote controls put together by Universal Electronics, a company that makes remote control technology. The enviable collection of remotes past and present paid homage to this constantly evolving gadget that's near and dear to my heart.

These are just a few observations. For full expert reviews and analysis, be sure to check out the CES page on CNET. Can't wait to see what 2011 holds for the year in technology and TV. We'll all be tuning in to find out!