Saturday, January 28, 2012

CES Retrospective- Part 3

By Bayle Emlein

One new thing I did notice: QR codes everywhere. These abstract graphics that look Martian writing link you to a website, via a wireless connection. Most often the website is an infomercial. This saves the vendor tons of paper and gallons of ink by directing the potential purchaser electronically. In order to participate, the consumer must have a QR reader app on his her phone or tablet (your choice of several free for downloading) and snap a picture of the little rectangle. The graphic/photo redirects the phone to a website where one may view the promised advertisement in detail. Not sure if this is an improvement, but it is “different.” Since the users have had to become active in getting to the information (previously downloaded app, find phone, find camera, take photo, navigate to website), they are likely to be more engaged by the time they get to the website. But casual viewers are likely to not bother, whereas a well-designed flier might have caught some interest.

I also noticed a general lack of hype for any kind of product or service. Of course each company and developer praised their product to the heavens, but there was no show-wide technology fast-track to the future. In many ways, this was a real relief. Not that the floors and halls weren’t filled with vaporware and prototypes hoping to get enough pre-orders to become viable. After several years of promising us always-on portability, battery development noticeably quiet. Instead of better battery designs, the developers have been working on better power management. Developments in low power consumption Bluetooth are enabling internet-aware watches that would make Dick Tracy’s head spin. The portable charging gizmos that will add a couple of hours to your phone are smaller, lighter, and last a few calls longer. One more instance of incremental improvement that seemed like science fiction a decade ago and now is so embedded in daily life that it’s hardly noticed.
Microsoft announcing that 2012 is their swan song at CES was perhaps the major development of the event. Whatever their excuse (doesn’t match the Microsoft release cycle . . .), this will certainly tip the balance in some direction or another by next year. With so much lead time, that sucking noise we hear may be lots of other companies rushing in to fill the void. In a town where you can get odds on everything including whether the sun will rise, cabbies were already predicting that this will not turn out to be one of Microsoft’s better business choices.

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