Verizon Keynote Opens CES (But No iPhone Yet)
January 6, 2011 at 4:01 PM (PT)
The formal opening of the CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW in LAS VEGAS THURSDAY morning (1/6) brought a large crowd to the ballroom at the LAS VEGAS HILTON to hear VERIZON's keynote presentation with hopes of a major product announcement, but they didn't get one. Instead, the company offered an overview of its wired and wireless strategies and repeated the unveiling of the new LTE devices it announced on WEDNESDAY.
Pres./COO LOWELL MCADAM, touting the company's launch of its 4G LTE wireless broadband network, said that he would leave product announcements to the company's afternoon press conference. He also promoted the company's international fiber network and FiOS fiber-to-the-home service, and the "high-IQ networks" the combination of LTE, the fiber backbone, and FiOS create.
Chairman/CEO IVAN SEIDENBERG brought TIME WARNER Chairman/CEO JEFF BEWKES on stage to discuss the move of entertainment to on-demand, 3D, and other newer iterations on more screens and TIME WARNER's "TV Everywhere" initiative working towards simplified on-demand viewing on any device as part of whatever television service to which a consumer is subscribed.
BEWKES' appearance was accompanied by a comic video with CONAN O'BRIEN, the cast of "THE BIG BAND THEORY," "INSIDE THE NBA" hosts ERNIE JOHNSON, KENNY SMITH, and CHARLES BARKLEY, the cast of "TRUE BLOOD," CNN's WOLF BLITZER, ELLEN DE GENERES and MARK WAHLBERG, the cast of "THE HANGOVER 2," and BEWKES himself watching themselves on various screens to demonstrate the "anywhere, anytime" concept.
MCADAM was joined by MOTOROLA MOBILITY Chairman/CEO SANJAY JHA for an interview that focused on MOTOROLA's new BIONIC LTE phone and the XOOM tablet, both unveiled WEDNESDAY at the company's CEO press conference. GOOGLE Principal Software Engineer MIKE CLERON joined MCADAM and JHA for a brief preview of Android's new Honeycomb version for tablets, showing off the new OS' capability in a live demonstration, drawing applause for a 3D effect in GOOGLE Maps.
"CES' cause is the cause of innovation," CEA Pres./CEO GARY SHAPIRO told attendees in welcoming them to the show. SHAPIRO forecast a 3.5% rise in U.S. consumer electronics sales in 2011; he scolded the U.S. government for failing to sign trade agreements, discouraging innovation and "clearly overspending," but applauded the FCC for its policy reclaiming television spectrum for wireless broadband use.
He promoted the CEA's "Innovation Movement" lobbying program, the "Tech Enthusiast" individual CEA membership program, the upcoming "CE Week" in NEW YORK this SUMMER, and his book "The Comeback." In addition, he announced that the CEA has licensed the name "WORLD TRADE CENTER LAS VEGAS" to be used as a second name for the LAS VEGAS CONVENTION CENTER.
Verizon Shows Off LTE Devices
At its afternoon press conference, VERIZON showed off new smartphones for the LTE network, including models from LG (the Revolution), HTC (Thunderbolt), and SAMSUNG. Also included in the rollout will be SKYPE "always-on" integration and new EA games, HP laptops, and a NOVATEL LTE/CDMA mobile Mi-Fi hotspots. VERIZON did not disclose pricing or whether there will be caps on data usage, and some of the initial phones will not support simultaneous voice and data.
Skype Buys Qik
SKYPE announced at the show that it is buying competing video chat service QIK for an undisclosed price. Closing is expected by the end of the month. QIK is available on over 200 phones encompassing most mobile phone operating systems, and has been used as the default video chat application on phones like SPRINT's 4G HTC Evo.
Panel Looks At Apps
REVISION 3 "TEKZILLA" host and former CNET and MAHALO personality VERONICA BELMONT moderated a panel on app development for smartphones, tablets, and other devices THURSDAY morning at CES, looking at developers' and engineers' perceptions of the growing app marketplace.
CARROT CREATIVE President MICHAEL GERMANO noted that nine of every ten client requests for apps had been for the iOS platform until recently, when more clients have requested apps for all platforms. APPMAKR, INC. Co-Founder and CTO ISAAC MOSQUERA said that APPLE's iAds system isn't drawing substantial demand, with clients not wanting to give up control of their own inventory, and SCHEMATIC GM/EVP ANDREW SOLMSSEN noted the difficulty of building for the platform before it has reached "massive scale."
Asked by BELMONT whether the "big money" lies in the initial sale price or advertising or elsewhere, MOSQUERA said that he expects most games to make their money on microtransactions like additional levels. "Make them feel like number two, charge them to be number one, and they'll always do it," he asserted. On developing for platforms other than iOS, especially those like ANDROID with several iterations, SOLMSSEN said that the difficulty depends on the app in question, while GERMANO noted the "evil genius" of APPLE making a platform that is easy for developers; he called platforms that require custom versions for different screen sizes and user interfaces "pure f--king hell."
Regarding location-based apps and where the value lies for the category, GERMANO said that the primary driver of using apps like FOURSQUARE and GOWALLA is "bragging," users showing off where they are. He expressed doubt that people really want to "check in" publicly at a restaurant just to get a coupon. SOLMSSEN said that dating apps using location are growing steadily. BELMONT said that she found herself using the location-based apps to check in privately and asked herself why she was bothering.
Making Money On Music In Digital Age Is Focus Of Panel
A CES panel on digital music discussed the marketplace for artists in the digital age, with panelists debating how artists can make money from licensing, downloading, streaming, and customized music services.
"There are tons of ways to make money," TECHDIRT and FLOOR 64 President/CEO MIKE MASNICK said; PANDORA Sr. Mgr. of Artist Development MATT OSTROWER noted, "every one of the artists who get played on PANDORA, they get paid." Valuation of music, on the other hand, is proving problematic, noted TAG STRATEGIC LLC Managing Partner and former EMI executive TED COHEN, who said that earlier attempts at setting standard royalties helped "push RHAPSODY underwater."
Other issues discussed by the panel, which was moderated by LOS ANGELES TIMES editorial writer JON HEALY and also included artists SAMANTHA MURPHY and MARTIN ATKINS, FUTURE OF MUSIC COALITION Communications Director and Policy Strategist CASEY RAE-HUNTER, and SOUNDEXCHANGE Senior Counsel COLIN RUSHING, included how services like SPOTIFY will be monetized, licensing, and the need for label backing even in the case of artists like O.K. GO and AMANDA PALMER whose success was fueled by nontraditional marketing.
Asked how people will discover new music in the future, ATKINS said that he expects a resurgance of the mix tape; MURPHY said that friend recommendations will always be the best discovery source; RAE-HUNTER ripped radio and the NAB for not helping musicians, but RUSHING noted that the term "radio" means a wider range of delivery services today than just a standard broadcast station.
Panel Looks At In-Car Tech
The hot topic of in-vehicle technology and how consumer electronics companies can work with automakers (and if there remains any aftermarket opportunity at all) got a hearing at a THURSDAY afternoon panel at CES. Asked about the dwindling aftermarket opportunities by moderator DOUG NEWCOMB of EDMUNDS.COM, AUDIOVOX President TOM MALONE said that the safety category, including backup cameras and future solutions for "distracted driving" warning systems, offers promise. "We do see lots of new categories developing," MALONE said, adding that his company has purcahsed original-equipment makers in order to tap the factory-installed market. HAAS ENTERTAINMENT Owner/CEO JEFF HAAS added that aftermarket companies need accessibility to sales through car dealers, while ALPINE ELECTRONICS Assistant VP THOMAS YAMASAKI, whose company is a Tier I supplier for original equipment, noted that the market is changing so fast and lead times are so long that content plays are difficult, with today's success being tomorrow's passing fad.
As smartphones become common for navigation, TOYOTA's BRIAN INOUYE said that the in-dash navigation system has some life, because research shows consumers want it integrated into the vehicle rather than with wires hanging out. Connectivity of cell phones to car systems portend changes in that relationship, said INOUYE; "if I can get the vehicle to talk to the cloud," he said, consumers will want a screen that can connect to that cloud for content and navigation.
PANDORA Dir. of Business Development JACKSON GATES promoted the need for personalization of in-car technology, noting that his company "personalized the radio."
'Next Big Thing' Is... What?
CNET's annual "Next Big Thing" panel mulled what some consider the waning days of the PC and the rise of newer technologies like tablets and smarphones at CES THURSDAY afternoon. Moderated by CNET's MOLLY WOOD and BRIAN COOLEY and featuring heavy hitters like NEW YORK TIMES tech columnist DAVID POGUE and ENGADGET Editor-in-Chief JOSHUA TOPOLSKY, the panel drew a standing-room-only crowd in a double conference room at the LAS VEGAS CONVENTION CENTER.
The first segment, a "device panel," included HTC's DREW BAMFORD, SAMSUNG's NICK DICARLO, and ROKU's ANTHONY WOOD and addressed "device confusion," stemming from a wide array of products. ROKU's WOOD disagreed with the contention that people don't want "another box" on their sets; "People will buy another box if it's useful to them," he said, adding that a $100 box is a cheaper and better upgrade than buying an entire new set. BAMFORD spoke of using HTC's Sense UI across different devices to create a unified consistent experience. COOLEY noted how the firmware has become more important to consumers than the hardware, a position echoed by ROKU's WOOD but not by SAMSUNG's DICARLO, who said the quality of the experience with the software is hardware-dependent. CNET's WOOD tried to get DICARLO to pick a winner between tablets and smartphones, but DICARLO, after listening to her description of choosing to leave her iPad at home in favor of her Android phone, declined to pick a side, noting tablets' role in content consumption.
A second panel featured GOOGLE/YOUTUBE's ROBERT KYNCI, CLICKR's JIM LANZONE, CBS" ZANDER LURIE, and VERIZON's LINDSAY NOTWELL on services. NOTWELL said that the biggest issue for the future is bandwidth, which prompted his company's decision to move to LTE; LURIE stressed the content part of the equation, saying nobody will buy a tablet if it doesn't offer content people want (and "we gotta get paid for the experience," he added). LANZONE, prompted by COOLEY to give an "elevator pitch" for his company, called it a "TV GUIDE of the future," more structured than a mere title search (COOLEY said he misses the days of TV GUIDE with one place to get listings, noting the "3D Chess"-like difficulty of finding content, and noted that different sites host different content but no one place has it all). MOLLY WOOD asked if increased usage for streaming is putting pressure on VERIZON to drop the 5 GB cap on data, but NOTWELL said most people don't come close to that level and said engineers and programmers learn to become more efficient when they have limitations on bandwidth or memory; he added that people can't expect to get everything for free. LURIE admitted that "there isn't a constitutional right to see 'NCIS: L.A.'"
Finally, a panel of tech pundits included POGUE, TOPOLSKY, and WIRED.COM's EVAN HANSEN, with POGUE objecting to COOLEY's dire prediction for the personal computer and asking the audience how many of them expected not to own a OC within five years (answer: very few). POGUE likened the PC doom scenario to "television killing radio" (it didn't). TOPOLSKY said that all of the devices will have their purposes and places, comparing the device issue to a road on which many different vehicles are used.