CES Exhibitors Push Limits of Display Technology

By David Keene 1/8/2013

Are you confused by the CES Show– and coverage of the CES show– this week? About the simultaneous reports of new generation displays and grousing about the show losing importance in a web-speed news and marketing world.
 
I’m not confused. The only thing that puzzles me this year is that so many consumer electronics pundits are whining about the “demise” of CES.
 
BuzzFeed’s Matt Buchanan’s coverage yesterday sums up this school of thought:
 
 
According to Buchanan, “There are now far better ways to tell the story of technology than physical gatherings that have their roots in the great World's Fairs of the late 19th and early 20th centuries...”
 
“Where do we go from a 150-inch television and the four-inch supercomputer?” he asks.
 
And Buchanan’s kicker: “I don't remember a single product from CES last year, only dancing on the countertops of a technology company's very expensive penthouse wearing nothing but a bathrobe”.
 
Maybe the reason this type of increasingly common industry pundit sees no value in CES is because they’re bloggers, not professionals involved in the buying and selling of gear. The press, even many of the so-called trade press, seem to forget: CES is a trade show: it exists so that consumer electronic retailers– after a grueling Christmas selling season has just wrapped– can come and wind down in Las Vegas in early January, network with other professionals (not bloggers), and get a glimpse, on the show floor, of the products they might want order to stock their own retail outlets in the next Christmas selling season. Not “sometime in the future” products (although those are fun to see and provoke thought) but products they’ll be wanting to stock later in the year. Simple.
 
Here are some simple observations:
 
Last year’s CES: 156,000 attendees; 3,239 exhibitors;1.86 million square feet of space. (numbers on this year’s attendance should be ready next week. BTW: The Las Vegas Convention Center is one of the few venues in the world that does not inflate numbers. They make every trade show that rents its space perform a rigorous audit of attendance. Unlike many trade shows in this country that count as attendees all “registered” attendees, people selling pretzels in the street outside the venue, dead people who wanted to attend but got hit by a bus pre-show, etc, etc.
 
Monday was press conference day at CES 2013, and there were a flurry of announcements on a new generation of 4K displays. Many 4K resolution flat panels being shown at CES this week. Sony had a prototype of its OLED 4K TV. Samsung announced details on its upcoming displays this week. Vizio introduced some upcoming Ultra HD 4K resolution sets. LG, Panasonic, and more, are in the fray.
 
Yes, you’ll hear all the whining this week from bloggers and trade press at CES– “There’s no content to show on a 4K screen.” … “… these new 4K sets are too expensive”, etc etc. And of course you’ll hear the usual complaints about the show being too big to navigate (really? If you can’t manage a trade show, as a journalist or a blogger, you might look for a different line of work– or just stay home and blog in your fuzzy slippers).
 
Do the commentators trotting out these nuggets of wisdom not understand the irony of what they are saying? Would that in the consumer audio/music world, someone still cared one iota about improving the quality of product! About improving resolution of the content played back, so that the consumer gets a better experience. So that industry manufacturers continue to push the limits of the technology.
 
Look at what happened to music, to HiFi, to the consumer experience for audio, in the past ten years. We now all accept MP3 (pathetic production quality MP3 at that) as “good enough” for music listening. Is there anyone in our industry (pro AV) who is not saddened by this state of affairs? Of course, the darling of all the bloggers, Apple, has helped us all drive audio quality off the edge of a very steep quality cliff– one that makes the height of our national fiscal cliff look like a that of a child’s sandpile.
 
There are more significant improvements in video resolution, for displays, in the works now, than there have been for years. And they’re all being shown at the CES show in Vegas this week.

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