From the Editor’s Desk: A reminder to keep CES announcements in context

It’s good to remember that just because something is newsworthy doesn’t mean it’s going to be a real-world product.

Amazingly, CES 2018 is less than a week away. Though the “show” doesn’t officially open until January 9, the press will be heading to Las Vegas this week and the news will start pouring out this coming weekend before CES has technically started. Heck, you’re going to start seeing CES announcements in the first couple days of January, a full week early.

With all of that CES craziness so nearly upon us, it’s worth remembering what this show is actually for and what it really means when it comes to products actually being released.

As someone who follows the technology world closely, it’s easy to get excited about the flood of big and exciting announcements coming out of CES. There will be dozens of previously unknown companies showing off some pretty amazing technology demos and even complete products. Even if you ignore the companies that make absolutely unattainable claims, of which there are many, there will still be plenty of realistic and believable stuff to see and get excited about.

Unfortunately, most of it will never come to market for you and I to buy. And understanding why requires understanding what and who CES is for.

There’s a reason why it’s now called just “CES” and that is no longer an acronym for “Consumer Electronics Show” — this isn’t really a show aimed at consumers, even though many of the products on display are consumer-focused in nature. No the reality of CES is that it’s designed for businesses to talk to other businesses all in one place. For companies to talk about licensing or buying technologies (or the company altogether), or to get some investment, or to strike some deals for distribution or manufacturing or a retail partnership. For many more well-established companies, CES is a chance to see what’s on the horizon from the competition or potentially buy up a smaller company with something new to offer.

Unfortunately, most of the tech shown at CES will never come to market.

The only real counterpoint to this is the really big names at the show. Samsung and LG and Sony and Intel and Nikon and Ford and dozens of other huge companies that have their product roadmap lined up and well into production before CES arrives. They use CES to show off what they already know is launching — they’re not waiting to gauge public interest or see what works. A vast majority of what they show off at the show is coming to market in 2017, plus a few glimpses at some prototypes and ideas they have for the future. But it’s all anchored in reality, with finished market-ready products that are already being mass-produced and would be released whether CES happened or not. For them, it’s just an easy way to show off to everyone at once and get in on the news cycle.

Regardless of who CES is actually for, we will of course be there cover all sides of the show. Because even though a majority of what’s shown at CES will never see the light of day again, those who understand that fact can still get some great insight into where the technology industry is headed. We’re still excited about that, and we’re going to see everything we can.

And with that, as I start to pack my bags for CES, a few random thoughts on the week:

We published our Best of 2017 awards this week, covering all sorts of hardware, software and stories. We put our collective foot down and say a lot of things are “best” in individual categories, but this is our full-on yearly lineup of award winners. It was a good year. I also wrote my four-month-later review of the Essential Phone this week. Despite all of the improvements, this still isn’t a phone I’d choose to use on a daily basis given its bad performance and stability. It’s that simple. I understand that many people are happier with the phone than I am, and don’t see as many issues with performance. But for me, having used dozens of different phones this year, I can say that when you put the Essential Phone head-to-head with the competition it just doesn’t stand up. Essential has lots of fundamentals perfect, but the execution is sorely lacking.

Happy New Year to everyone out there! Have a safe and fun evening.


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