Today may officially be Day 2 of the Consumer Electronics Show, but, based on vendor announcements, it’s really the fifth day. CES has a few lessons for those who live and breath tech, whether they work in the industry or follow it as analysts, bloggers, investors or journalists.
1. Rumors are often false. I shouldn’t have to state this. Short of a reliable gadget blog/news site getting hands on a verifiably-authentic photo or video of something new — or actual product — rumors can’t be trusted. The more general or speculative, the more likely to lead nowhere.
2. Everyone is asking about the tablet not here — iPad 2. Apple isn’t participating in CES, but its presence is as specter — the ghost in the trade show. Perhaps iPad 2 would cast shorter ghostly — or should that be ghastly — shadow if more of the new tablets were releasing sooner. Many of them are tied to Android 3.0 (aka Honeycomb), and it’s simply not yet ready.
3. Many tablet vendors are pursuing a flawed go-to-market strategy. Any tablet that requires carrier contractual commitment is already doomed. Apple was right to make data plans optional for iPad. Tablet technology will change too quickly over the next 18 to 24 months — the typical contract length either in Europe or the United States. Carriers and manufacturers are asking too much of consumers to lock into one device for so long.
4. CES is Apple’s treasure trove of competitive information — hell, it’s better than corporate espionage. Most of the tablets and many of the hot new smartphones announced at CES won’t ship for months. Apple is likely to announce iPad 2 first. While it’s too late in the development process for Apple to make substantive design changes, marketing can be fine-tuned. Apple now knows what to expect from the fragmented market of tablet competitors, and those offering Android or Windows Phone 7 smartphones.
5. CES is too big to be any longer relevant. The trade show exploded in size after Comdex’s demise in the early Noughties. It’s now an enormous venue, where many new products are announced too many months before they’re released to market and too many others are lost in the noise. There’s more to gain in competitive insight than the real value of networking with customers or partners.