by Robert van Alstyne
Want to know the hot tech product that every consumer will be hankering for in 2012? Then don’t bother attending the Consumer Electronics Show. Although the annual trade show still draws 140,000+ attendees every year, major industry players increasingly prefer unveiling their most prized products away from the fray. The biggest CE sensations of the last few years — Apple’s iPhone, Microsoft’s Kinect, Amazon’s Kindle Fire — didn’t make their debuts in Las Vegas.
That doesn’t mean that CES is irrelevant. At this year’s show, last week, there may not have been that one killer device, but there were plenty of signs pointing to important trends, like more intuitive and user-centered interfaces. Touch-, voice- and gesture-command devices are on the rise, from Intel’s intriguing Ultrabooks to smart television sets from Samsung, LG and others.
In a long overdue development, consumer electronics makers are finally developing devices that play well with consumers’ preexisting gadgets. CE makers are leveraging the power of the cloud to make intelligent connections between formerly disparate devices like the smartphone and the home thermostat (see Allure Energy’s EverSense, which automatically cranks up the home temp when it senses the pending arrival of the homeowner via smartphone GPS).
What does this mean for marketers?
Tout team-playing capabilities.
Today’s consumers already have more devices at hand than they know what to do with. Convincing them to pony up for one more requires selling them on the additive benefits it can provide to the tech they already own. Foreground intelligent WiFi features and device flexibility, or else shoppers are moving on.
Pitch the experience. Ditch the tech specs.
As the widespread outpouring of emotion in the wake of Steve Jobs’ death confirmed, consumer electronics are no longer a niche geek obsession. Today’s mainstream consumer has a passionate and personal connection to technology. Apple has dominated the CE space over the last decade by focusing on ease of use and elegant ecosystems, not an overly detailed sales pitch. Most consumers are happy to skip the specs — they just want to know how your product will make their life better.