Back from CES, Pondering Big Thoughts

I think I am finally recovered after the trip to Las Vegas for the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show, although I was probably more mentally than physically exhausted. There was, of course, the usual flurry of announcements, product upgrades, new partnerships, etc. which keeps you busy but the most compelling story, for me at least, was much bigger than any one company or category.

After listening to keynotes from the likes of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, and Sony, the thing that impressed me the most was the scale and scope of the next generation of ideas coming out of this industry. After you have given it a chance to sink in, I think you will agree that it can't be quickly dismissed simply as yet another round of cool gadgets. We are talking about software and devices that affect the very way you live your life on a daily basis. These are basic functions, right up there with eating and sleeping.

Think of the way you communicate with other people, the way you entertain yourself and your family, and the way you get information. Those are three, top-level threads in our lives. But in this new world, they are no longer separate threads. These companies are proposing they should all be thought of together - like one gigantic category. Communication, entertainment, and having access to information becomes one seamless, ongoing thread in your life. It begins the moment you wake up and lasts all day. Its not just in one place but everywhere, surrounding you at home, then in your car, and everywhere you walk.

If this is too abstract to wrap your brain around (I know my head is still reeling), there is one thing that is becoming clearer - there are three main devices that are being targeted for this combined experience: the computer, the TV, and the mobile phone. But whatever you think the primary use for these devices are, think again. You can make phone calls on your computer and soon, your TV. You can watch TV on your laptop and soon, your phone. You will have access to the same information on your phone and TV as you do on your computer. That's why this is so big.

Sure there are other devices out there, the portable music/satellite/video player, cameras and camcorders, PDAs, DVD players, and handheld game systems but they are all missing one key element that the other three share (or will soon): an Internet connection. Maybe your phone and TV don't yet have them yet, but its going to happen very soon and that's when the seamless experience begins to happen.

You will soon start hearing about different interaction models that describe these scenarios. Already the terms 2 foot interface vs. ten foot interace are being bandied about. If you think about it, there is a very different approach for interaction with your TV (remote in hand from the couch across the room) than with your computer (keyboard/mouse on your lap or desk). The portable cell/smart phone has its own model that is still evolving but will likely include touchscreens, stylus, mini-keyboards and much smaller displays. Think of the challenges involved in getting us consumers used to getting information, enjoying entertainment, and communicating with others on all three!

I think there are other models that can come about but that's another article. For now, I will be scrambling like the rest of you to keep up with these changes and helping those around me integrate these advancements into their lives.

Join the discussion and share your thoughts with the community.


Connect With Techlore