CES & the Quest for Commercially Viable Products

by Chuck Martin on January 11, 2014

Mobile Keynote SpeakerBy Chuck Martin

Billed as the official media event of the International CES, the mega show in Las Vegas formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show, more than 70 companies pitched their gadgets and wares last night as the future of things to come.

This seemed quite fitting following the opening state of consumer tech talk in which Consumer Electronics Association chief economist Shawn DuBravac focused on the difference between what is technically feasible and what is commercially viable.

He cited as one of his examples the development of the graphic user interface by Xerox, which was priced at $75,000, making it technically feasible but impractical at scale. He pointed out that Apple then made the same technology commercially successful a few years later in its early Macintosh computers.

As more than 1,000 media people from all over the globe spent a few hours checking some of things that hope to come, it reminded me of the earlier address.

There was technology to wear, new uses for smartphones and tablets and technologies that are not yet available in the U.S.

The largest display and the one that drew the consistently largest crowds over the course of a few hours was from Lenovo, the company that took over IBM’s PC business a while back and whose mobile business is booming outside of the U.S.

I chatted with Keith Liu, director of launch marketing in the venture business group at Lenovo, who walked me through the new lineup of four new Lenovo smartphones. Lenovo markets smartphones in 25 markets but has focused on only tablets in the U.S.

“We’re focused on tablets in the U.S right now, but we want to bring smartphones here as well,” says Liu.

One of the four new Lenovo smartphones has dual speakers with Dolby Digital and most of the phones are in the $200 range, without a contract.

We’ll be looking in on Samsung tomorrow when they have their latest announcements so we’ll see if they have any thoughts on what Lenovo is up to.

From a mobile commerce standpoint, most of the activity will be around tomorrow and the rest of the week. However, the influences of mobile dominated much of what was shown in the advance presentations.

The official show doesn’t open until Tuesday and an entire day of announcements is scheduled throughout the day Monday, before the anticipated 150,000 attendees arrive.

It will be interesting to monitor which of the multitude of new mobile forays end up being commercially viable and which remain on the shelf.

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