For the first time that I can remember, there is not a cloud of hype building around the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In the past, it has been DVD to Blu-ray, MIDs to tablets, HDTV to 3DTV, and just about everything else under the sun. Does this represent a lull in innovation, that absence of Apple and Microsoft, or just a unique time when consumer products cycles appear to be rather aligned? To be sure, there will be those touting significant advanced in technology, but as history demonstrates, nothing ever comes to market as quickly as predicted. I call this the 3-to-5 year rule.
The rule states that it takes three to five years from the time a new product or technology is introduced to either become mainstream or fail. This period is associated with both the evolution of the product and the supporting ecosystem. Within three to five years, the average consumer product goes through two additional generations. These generations are critical to define the product features, consumer usage models, achieve reasonable price points through technical and manufacturing advancements, and most importantly, to develop the ecosystem around the product. The ecosystem includes the sales and service channels, the software and/or content, and even the competition to lend some credibility to the market. Most of the new products over the past decade have faced this evolution cycle with mixed results and many, like OLED HDTVs and flexible displays, are still in the cycle.
To be sure, there will be cool new PCs, TVs, smartphones, and tablets at this year’s CES. In addition, there will be an endless number of companies and solutions offering to automate the home, create an interactive living room, and make all your devices work together, but these still appear to be solutions before their time and need. However, this lull in hype may finally create and opportunity for the plethora of other consumer electronic solutions to shine. One theme that appears to be rising is the wearable electronics. Who knows, maybe the market is finally ready for intelligent watches and glasses, but then again, this is not a new concept either.
While the lack of a hype cloud may make CES less exciting, I would argue that it is a refreshing change and the surprises are likely the least expected. As a result, I look forward to attending this year’s event to find the hidden gems.
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