Looking Back on CES 2014

Alan Bullock
Jan 21, 2014

The 2014 International CES has come and gone. Tens of thousands of geeks and those who write about geeky things (often indistinguishable, by the way) descended on Las Vegas earlier this month. Many of them persevered through travel delays caused by record cold and snow in the central and northeastern United States; an estimated few thousand more gave up after spending a day or two trying to make the trip. Those that made it saw a vast assortment of products, some of which will soon be available for sale, and others that will probably never again see the light of day.

Most products have only once chance in the CES spotlight; others have none. One afternoon, in the giant booth of one of the giant consumer electronics manufacturers, I was hoping to get a closer look at what I thought was a relatively new product (I had just recently learned about it, anyway). When I asked a representative to point me to it, his reply was something to the effect of, “If it’s currently on the market, it’s not at CES.” Lesson learned — this show is clearly about the future.

Here are a few quick thoughts on some of the recurring themes at CES 2014:

  • 4K UltraHD television was everywhere. It’s real, it’s real good, and it’s going to be a hit. The roots of a 4K ecosystem are already in place, including capture devices (e.g. the new $1,999 Sony Handycam FDR-AX100), and content delivery services (e.g., Amazon, Netflix, Sony), not to mention billions of digital photos from cameras and smartphones with more than enough resolution (8 MP) to take full advantage of Ultra high-definition screens.
  • Curved-screen television was almost everywhere. This one doesn’t make as much sense to me; it seems more like a “because we can” product. I get the “more immersive viewing experience” appeal, but it seems like viewers of screens smaller than 55”-60” or so need to be very close to appreciate it. (And we all know what Mom said about sitting too close to the TV.)
  • 3D television was almost nowhere (one curious exception was a big wall in the LG booth). It’s a fad that never caught on. The glasses are awkward, glasses-free alternatives don’t look so good, and there is limited content. 4K wins.
  • 3D printing, on the other hand, is rapidly gaining momentum, and was featured in its own CES Tech Zone. Vendors showed products and services targeting applications that include prosthetic body parts, sugary confections (food), full-color models, and even ceramic material that is ready for glaze and kiln. (For more on 3D printing, see this recent InfoTrends InfoBlog.)
  • Wearable technology continues to improve. Eyeglass-style display and camera systems are getting better quality and less bulky. They are still a ways from mainstream consumer adoption, but the industrial, medical, and gaming applications are impressive.
  • Fitness gizmos are a dime a dozen. That’s a figure of speech (for now), but there were so many companies showing clip-on or wristband heart rate monitors, sleep monitors, and similar devices that price erosion and vendor consolidation seem inevitable, probably sooner rather than later.
  • The home automation, monitoring, and security market is almost as crowded as fitness gizmos.
  • Cars are getting more connected. Apparently, you can now order a pizza from your dashboard. (But is it safer than ordering from your phone?)
  • There’s not much new in digital cameras. Sure, all the big names were there, and several new models were introduced, but the features seemed more evolutionary than revolutionary. Perhaps they are saving the good stuff for next month’s CP+ Photo Imaging show in Japan. We’ll be there to find out.

A more detailed report of the 2014 International CES will be published for InfoTrends clients shortly. We’ll also be covering a number of other industry events this year, including CP+, the Wedding and Portrait Photography Expo (WPPI), National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), Mobile World Congress, and Photokina), focusing on photo and imaging developments as well as broader trends of interest. Stay tuned.

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