By Charlene Li
Here’s a quick overview of some of the things I picked up after two days at CES.
- A Tale Of Two Keynotes. I attended both the Yahoo! and Google keynotes and Friday and the contrast was obvious, starting from the music and ending with the celebrities. I have to say, I really enjoyed seeing Tom Cruise during the Yahoo! speech, but felt that it was fairly canned, especially Ellen DeGeneres’ “monologue” about the technical problems she had. The Yahoo! speakers were well rehearsed, but they were, well, rehearsed. In contrast, Larry Page was far from the most dynamic speaker, frequently checking his paper notes. But there was a down to earth quality of his presentation, and the fact that he took many questions from audience members brought a man of the people quality to the keynote. But by far the best part of the Google keynote was Robin Williams’ co-hosting of the Q&A (I thankfully escaped any ribbing when I asked a question!). You couldn’t have asked for better entertainment than the parody of our own questions.
- Getting trampled. Just one other observation about the keynotes. Maybe it was the 9am start time, maybe it was the company, but the Yahoo! keynote wasn’t full and while the audience was attentive, it wasn’t energized. I was able to walk in, and have nobody else sitting next to me in the balcony. Contrast to the Google keynote, which was near mayhem outside the theater doors just before the start of the keynote. I showed up 15 minutes early, stood in the wrong line (with ticket holders instead of press) and proceeded to get pushed, shoved, and almost trampled by irate ticket holders who couldn’t get in because they had all shown up past the deadline. And there were about 200 more people without tickets hoping to get in anyway at the last minute. The result: I felt very fortunate to finally get in, but was pretty shaken from the mayhem. I knew that the Google keynote was the hottest ticket at CES, but didn’t anticipate just how aggressive people could be.
- Convergence? Didn’t see it. This show was supposed to be about “convergence” but darn if I couldn’t find it at the show. I haven’t been to CES since 1995, primarily because my research focus is on media and marketing – you know, the stuff that convergence is supposed to bring to devices. The Yahoo! and Google keynotes gave me the excuse to come to Las Vegas and indulge my gadget-loving side, but there was little convergence happening outside of Yahoo’s announcements. The only other interesting example was TiVo’s current online offerings, available on the Series 2 machines (I just ordered one so I’m eager to try it out). TiVo’s CEO Tom Rogers eagerly discussed with a group of reporters its anticipated high definition product (scheduled to be introduced mid-year) which will take advantage of its broadband connection to provide even more online services. While I anticipate more devices to integrate online services, it will be deals like the one between TiVo and Yahoo! that will be core to making such convergence services work for consumers.
- My favorite gadget. I heard about this one when a TV crew picked me out while I was noshing my lunch outside the main hall with some Forrester colleagues. Interestingly, they wanted to interview me and not my other (male) colleagues because I was a woman. The device: the Connect Io Intelligent Oven that turns on by the Internet or cell phone (and can keep food cool before it turns on). What, were you expecting me to pick a cell phone or HDTV? As a working mom, I thought this was just the coolest thing – I can throw the frozen pizza in the oven in the morning, ping it to preheat and cook the pizza when I pick up my kids, and have pizza on the table in 5 minutes. Now, I just need an applicance that will wash, peel, and cook the veggies for me too!
- Pedal power in Las Vegas. I rented a bike to get around (photo proof is below) and it totally made the CES experience enjoyable. (My collegue Josh Bernoff did the same). I was able to get from my hotel on the Strip (Harrah’s) to the convention center in 10 minutes – and that includes abiding by all traffic lights. Racking the bike is easy – there are stands right outside Central Hall (Sands is a bit trickier – the only rack I could find was in the back in the service entrance). And visiting other hotels around town is easy – simply check the back in at the Bell Desk. Las Vegas Cyclery makes it easy by dropping off/picking up the bike from your hotel. Only other recommendations: bring your own helmet and wear reflective clothing.