I thought CES 2008 was less about unveiling disruptive new technologies and path-breaking announcements, and more about moving closer to the long-promised vision of convergence and connected digital home. The big themes for me were:
- IP-connected CE: Internet connectivity was everywhere, especially on TVs. Sony was the first to launch an IP-connected TV last year at CES (new Bravia TV line), along with its content partnership with AOL Video. This year, all major TV manufacturers came out with connected TVs. Announced content partnerships involved access to Web videos within a walled garden and providing users daily-use information (e.g., weather, stock quotes, etc) that can be overlayed on top of the regular broadcast video.
- Following the ongoing demise of the walled-garden model on the Web, connected TVs will also open up in the long run. TV OEMs will however have to first ensure that they have a solution for the problems open Web brings (spyware, viruses, etc). Consumers are not going to tolerate any deviation from their current, no-hassle TV experience (switch on your remote, and enjoy the content). It was therefore good to see that Sharp announced AQUOS Advantage service with their IP connected AQUOS TVs. The service allows Sharp reps to connect to your TV remotely and perform diagnostics, help with trouble shooting, provide product information, FAQs, etc.
- Connected TVs threaten the traditional MSO distribution model by providing a bypass solution. This can be significant, given cable companies have had issues working together with CE manufacturers, and have made frustratingly slow progress on OCAP standards, the cable card solution and in providing greater interactivity on set-top boxes.
- Wireless connectivity & media transfer (Bluetooth & IR) is playing a key part in driving simplicity and ease-of-use. From home theater systems with wireless connection between all components including speakers to wireless media transfer between different boxes in the home, many products shipped this year will prominently leverage wireless connectivity.
NBCU also held its internal leadership council meeting during the CES, attended by over 100 top global executives. Given everyone's presence, we ended up having several internal meetings as well. One of the main reasons why this CES became so taxing for me.
Learning about the evolution of consumer electronics and how users are/will be consuming content is key for any content company in the digital age. I welcome the transformation of CES over the past few years beyond consumer electronics to also cover the content that is required to experience these new gadgets. Several CES keynote speakers over the past three years have been from media companies (Google, Yahoo, CBS, Disney, etc) - none of these companies make any consumer electronics that CES has historically celebrated.
Engadget provides a good tour of NBCU's booth. You can also learn more about it on NBCU's dedicated site and blog for CES 2008.