CES Sees Line Blurring Between Consumer and Enterprise Electronics

Carl Weinschenk

David Bowie has just released new music for the first time in a decade. That is appropriate during this year’s Consumer Electronics Show -- which is ongoing in Las Vegas – since his biggest hit was the song “Changes.”

CES is facing changes and challenges. The fading of the demarcation between consumer and enterprise electronics is long established. The point – and one that I have been making for years – is that the two categories increasingly are the same and insisting on separating them is increasingly silly. Now, the Venn diagram only shows a sliver outside of the overlapping circles.

That means that what happens at CES is important for IT to follow. That reality is not lost on enterprise planners and other in-the-know observers. At eWeek, Wayne Rash discussed the details of this year’s CES from the enterprise point of view. He looks at notable absences (Microsoft, Apple and Google) and the importance of the seemingly millions of companies that are there.

Many of the issues he discusses are fairly well known: the importance of mobility, the ability of devices to do a larger number of things than previously and the challenges of security in this environment. This all drives home the point again: Discussion of these issues, while familiar, now is coming up in a description of a convention that carries the “consumer” label.

Information Management’s Justin Kern also looks at CES through enterprise eyes. He quotes Saugatuck Technology analyst Alex Bakker’s point that the ability to market products that will be used at work directly to end users means that vendors don’t have to worry much about what IT thinks. It’s a great point, and a logical extension of the lack of control IT departments have over the invasion of consumer devices.

It’s not that IT is becoming irrelevant; it’s that its role is changing. There are other interesting insights in the piece, which is well worth reading.

The eradication of the line between consumer and corporate technology arguably is a good thing for CES, since it is on the winning side. The convention, however, also is facing challenges. The Guardian discusses the idea that the importance of physical devices is fading in favor of code and that the Internet itself has made the necessity of actually meeting an anachronism:

But there is a problem. Sceptics say that the world has changed faster than CES, that the pre-eminence of the internet and software has marginalised an event still tethered mainly to hardware, and that CES is sliding into limbo as a consequence.

The Guardian piece links to a story at BuzzFeed (entitled "Why We Are Not At the Biggest Tech Show in the World") in which the site explains why it is not attending CES. One of the lines – which is quoted at the Guardian – also questions the show’s name:


Hardware (seriously doesn't the word "electronics" in the conference's dusty title make your eyes instantly droop a bit?) has become increasingly commoditized into blank vessels that do little more than hold Facebook and Twitter and the App Store and Android and iOS. And the best and most interesting vessels, increasingly, are made by the very companies making the software.

Thus, if “consumer” and “electronics” no longer are appropriate, all that would be left in the name is “Show.” Seriously, the multiple explosions in how communications tools are created and used is changing everything. It makes sense that the huge consumer electronics show will have to change as well.



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