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Articles: CES 2012

I just returned from a visit to CES in Las Vegas. As I wandered the halls of this enormous show, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if it were turned into one big retail store. While one might say the internet is essentially that, there’s just no way for anyone to shop on the internet and see all this stuff. You simply cannot be exposed to all the possibilities in electronics until you’re seeing them in person, booth-by-booth.

As always, there were iPod cases to satisfy every appetite. If you have an idea for an iPod case, chances are it’s already been done. Although I must say that I didn’t see a some of my best ideas: an organic iPod case that would allow it to be both a meal and protection for your iPod, nor did I see one that flies, or one that doubles as a semi-automatic pistol, but the show was so huge I’m sure I just happened to miss those booths.

The Next Big Thing of course is 3D. I got my first view of glasses-less 3D TV, and it’s not bad. I wouldn’t want it that way for everything I watch, but it’s not bad. As usual, the early adopters will pay the highest price for the lowest performance as it develops, but once they really get it all figured out, 3D will become reasonably mainstream. And I suppose that means it’s only a matter of time before we see it on our computer screens.  I wonder if I’ll be able to make all my “s’s” float closer to my eyeballs, for no other reason than I’d be able to do it.

Speaking of which, there was, as usual, no shortage of Chinese companies who seem to specialize in doing exactly that: just making something because they can. After a given technology gets invented, the Chinese simply make every device they can think of using said technology, often with the greatest number of buttons possible on the controller. They don’t seem to give much thought as to whether we really need the device, or what problem it will solve, or how it will be used, or whether it’s easy to use. They just make them.

Apple of course leads the way in taking a category and actually creating a product with a well-defined user interface. For instance, before the iPad, there were already plenty of tablet computers. The thing of it is that all of them were simply there because they could be. Apple thought about the user and created the most successful product in electronics history without inventing anything new at all.

One of the most amazing things about that is that it was done with a distinct emphasis on extremely high quality of production. Usually the cheapest product leads a given category in sales. Apple has proven that value for the money can be just as compelling as a cheap price. Since most companies don’t follow that lead, and instead just continue to rush headlong into offering something as cheap as possible instead, is what keeps Apple’s sales soaring, with no letup in sight.

While Apple had no booth there, its presence and impact was felt throughout the show. While Microsoft had its booth there for the last time, its presence and impact was nary to be found otherwise. And while its big news that this is their last show, the size of the show itself certainly seems to indicate that it’s going to continue for some time to come.

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