Why Apple Will Dominate CES

Why Apple Will Dominate CES

The biggest company at CES this year is Apple. No, Apple isn’t giving keynotes, hosting a booth or even taking meetings, as far as I know. But Apple dominates CES like cheesy hotel casinos dominate the Las Vegas Strip.

A consumer electronics show without Apple is like an Internet search show without Google, a social networking show without Facebook or a, er, MacWorld Expo without Apple.

But that’s not why Apple’s presence is so large at CES. The reason is that half the initiatives, product directions and announcements are responses to Apple, or anticipation of what Apple might do in the future.

The touch-tablet market is the House that Apple Built. By launching the iPad two years ago, Apple convinced the world that a multi-touch tablet with apps was a great new business to get into. Unfortunately, the world was mistaken.

Until Amazon shipped the Kindle Fire, which succeeded mainly because it was super cheap, all other touch tablets have utterly failed in the market, when measured against the expectations of manufacturers.

The grandest expression of the touch tablet delusion was last year’s CES. That show saw more than 100 individual tablet products introduced or showcased.

What a disaster. The vast majority of these products would never have existed if not for the crazy success of the iPad. Apple led them astray. These low-volume, low-margin me-too tablets represent enormous wasted time, money and energy on the part of nearly all manufacturers involved.

The tablet debacle from last year will be repeated this year in the form of ultrathin notebooks, and for the same reason.

Apple hit one out of the park with the most recent generation of MacBook Airs. Now everyone in the industry thinks following Apple’s lead is the path to market success. It’s not.

Even Apple failed with the first generation of MacBook Airs, which were too expensive and not awesome enough to gain widespread acceptance.

Ultrathin clamshell laptops are just like touch tablets in that the overall user experience has to be perfect in order to get people to make the small sacrifices in price, storage and flexibility required of such a small form factor.

CES organizers estimate that up to 40 new MacBook Air wanna-bes will be showcased at CES this year.

Most of these will fail because their manufacturers mistakenly believe that the MacBook Air is successful because it’s an ultrathin with flash storage. In reality, it’s successful because it’s a flawless, ultra-fast and thrilling to use device that comes at a very reasonable price.

It’s not enough to make an ultrathin with flash. Unless it makes people involuntarily blurt out “Wow!” when they first use it, it won’t succeed in the market.

Once again, Apple’s success in ultrathins is leading the rest of the industry down a false road, raising expectations that will be dashed by next year’s CES.

One of the big trends at CES will be TVs in general, and Google TV products in particular.

The TV industry is in a panic. In order to move merchandise, they need to innovate. But how?

3D was supposed to save the industry, giving consumers a new reason to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars on a new boob tube. The trouble is that 3D sucks. It makes people nauseated. Viewers feel like morons wearing goofy glasses in their living rooms.

So now the TV industry is being dragged, kicking and screaming, into the fate they’ve long resisted: becoming PCs.

The inevitable future of television involves Internet-streamed shows and movies, “intelligence” and apps.

So the battle in the TV industry is: roll your own “smart TV” solution and go nowhere? Or get in bed with Google and win sales but lose control?

That’s what the TV section of CES will be all about. The big three — Samsung, LG and Sony — will be playing both sides of the fence, for the most part, embracing Google TV with some products, but not doing so with others.

Google is the partner of last resort, acceptable only because TV makers believe Google is the only company that might help them fend off the scary Apple television onslaught that everybody knows is coming.

They’re partnering with Google because that company is willing to play ball with existing TV makers, willing to lend their Android platform, Chrome browser and apps. Apple, on the other hand, just wants to replace them, drive them out of business.

The future Apple TV, or iTV, will be a permanent replacement for the Asian TV you would otherwise buy. And once you go Mac, you never go back.

Another trend in TVs is ultra thin sets. While the new generation of incredibly thin TVs will generate a lot of attention (but few sales because of their high prices), the press will be wondering: Is this what Apple will do?

So just about every shiny new TV announcement at CES, whether Google-oriented or proprietary, will have everything to do with positioning the companies involved against the specter of Apple’s entry into the TV market.

Even the big drama of the show this year, the announcement by Microsoft that they wouldn’t participate in keynotes or booths in future CES events, is related to Apple.

When Microsoft first made their announcement, there was a knee-jerk comparison to Apple’s 2009 withdrawal from Macworld Expo. Commentators said that the biggest companies are leaving the biggest shows and striking out on their own.

But CES insiders have revealed that Microsoft left in a huff because show organizers wanted someone else to do the big, opening keynote. Which makes sense. Microsoft doesn’t signal the bleeding edge of consumer technology. So, according to reports, Microsoft left in a huff, taking their toys (and booths) and going home.

This falling out is particularly humiliating for Microsoft mainly because of the obvious and unflattering comparison with Apple.

To oversimplify, Apple left MacWorld because Apple is too powerful to be hemmed in by someone else’s show. Apple wants to control everything, and has the ability to do that, and doesn’t need a show organizer to bring them that attention.

Microsoft, on the other hand, left CES because Microsoft isn’t powerful, exciting or cool enough anymore to keynote the world’s largest consumer electronics show.

So although Apple won’t be attending CES, Apple will be everywhere at the show. It will be on the minds and lips of everyone in attendance, and will loom over the show like a dark cloud.

Wherever you look, you’ll see companies reacting to, copying, avoiding or anticipating Apple products as the main driver of their product development and marketing.

  • David Clark

    Which is how it’s been since 1984.

  • aramishero

    Bad mouth on Apple?

  • TheMacAdvocate

    Someone owes MG Siegler a beer.

    I think he would have settled for a link.

    http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/

  • saudio

    Excellent article… thanks!

  • TODAYinTECH

    Two words …  Dominate! No!!

  • Curtis Something

    “Another trend in TVs is ultra thing sets.” I assume you meant “Another trend in TVs is ultra thin sets.”

  • ddevito

    too bad Apple won’t be able to bully media content providers like they did the music industry.

  • ddevito

    Wrong. Android will dominate CES.

    Why? Because it’s OPEN. Watch the innovations that are sprung from an OPEN platform.

  • Shameer Mulji

    First of all the music industry is one of many media content providers, the others being the tv, movie, book publishing, & gaming industries.  So if you’re specifically referring to the movie, tv, & book industry then you’re right.

  • ImTrollButHonest

    Are you sure?  ;-)

  • ImTrollButHonest

    @ddevito If Android is so cool… Why are you in a site called “Cult of Mac”? [No trolling, just curiosity]

  • ddevito

    I meant TV, yes.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m rooting for them. Google fell on their face with Google TV. I’m the biggest Google & Android fan there is, and I can say with confidence that Google TV sucks. I only use it for 3 purposes: surfing the web on my TV (which is awesome), streaming Netflix (which anything does these days), and watching pics\vids taken from my phone (which is stored in the cloud oddly enough rather than streaming from my Android phone).

    I want to see Apple succeed with the “a la carte” business model, but TV providers won’t budge – there’s not enough incentive for them to buy into it. 

    Although on the flip side I have an Apple TV also, and it sucks as a stand alone device (I stream from my iPad – which is the bee’s knees)

  • ddevito

    I want it to happen, but I don’t think people will spend $1500+ on a TV that talks

  • ImTrollButHonest

    I think it’s true Apple will be in the mind of many attendants of CES. But I really think we’ll see some interesting proposes coming from different companies, not only “Apple-expecters”… My opinion.

  • ddevito

    I own both Android and Apple devices (more Apple devices actually)

    -iMac
    -iPod Video
    -iPod touch
    -iPad 2
    -Apple TV 2

    I just don’t blindly love Apple like most fanboys

  • ImTrollButHonest

    I know what you talk about, but think this: When Apple make some advances, they help every costumer to get a better product. See, with the MB Air, some other companies are creating ultrabooks. Better laptops, better prices, better products, coming from Samsung, Acer, Asus… when Apple (and the others) are innovative, they produce a explosion of innovation from the others. I think this will happen to the TV market. Its a win-win. What do you think? 

  • ImTrollButHonest

    I like your thought. The blindness is a bad thing in so many fanboys… 

  • dwplay11

    Good article. Since 2007 it seems like every tech company’s products are a response to apple.

  • geek

    Nice article but a bit off the mark. Apple, Microsoft and Amazon do not need a trade show to be a face in the crowd. Their marketing clout permits them to hold events with the press flocking to them, its that simple.  BTW Apple does not dominate CES. Apple is a major player but the rest of the industry is very strong. 

  • gitoffmenuts_google

    try actually reading the article.

  • JoViKe

    Agreed. An ultrathin not running OS X is bound to disappoint.

  • Luis Dominguez

    I like the way you put it.  I like you own both Apple and other products. I only read like the first two paragraphs and that was it.  I hate using the term “Fanboy” but can’t think of anything else from reading the beginning of this article.  Can’t we all just love technology in all?  I hate all this Apple vs PC vs Android crap.  In my eyes its all awesome and very exciting to see what is coming from all camps.  

  • Connor Mulcahey

    No its more that why should they make there own OS when they can just use a pre-made one from Google. Many of these companies are hardware manufacturers who use Windows in their PCs and Android on their phones. This is one of the reasons that Apple is succeeding so well, the company that writes the software also makes the hardware. There are very few other companies out there that do that.

  • Connor Mulcahey

    Wow so true now that I think of it   

  • ericthehalfbee

    If Apple can’t get deals with content providers then Google doesn’t have a hope in hell.

  • geek

    I did completely!  The hook in the story is CES and not the lack of focus on f product development, engineering or follow the leader (Apple) by many in the industry.  I could have taken exception that the problem of ultra thin TV’s is not price but how to integrate sound systems that require depth for fidelity.  BTW I am typing this on a MacBook Air ( 2nd generation) and it is a nice tool but hardly perfect. I could have also objected to the continual insistence on looking at the Amazon Fire as a tablet in the context of others, it is a electronic Sears catalog to sell content. In short, the article was a nice read but heavy on Apple bias and I was just to lazy to state, but my excuse is I am not being pressured by an editor or being paid for my 1,000 words. :)

  • geek

    I did completely!  The hook in the story is CES and not the lack of focus on f product development, engineering or follow the leader (Apple) by many in the industry.  I could have taken exception that the problem of ultra thin TV’s is not price but how to integrate sound systems that require depth for fidelity.  BTW I am typing this on a MacBook Air ( 2nd generation) and it is a nice tool but hardly perfect. I could have also objected to the continual insistence on looking at the Amazon Fire as a tablet in the context of others, it is a electronic Sears catalog to sell content. In short, the article was a nice read but heavy on Apple bias and I was just to lazy to state, but my excuse is I am not being pressured by an editor or being paid for my 1,000 words. :)

  • ddevito

    yeah you’re right – Microsoft barely made a dime over the last 30 years.

    /s

  • ddevito

    But that is what makes it open, in a way. iOS is nice but locked down tighter than a Catholic schoolgirl. It runs shiny toys but it will never spur innovation past perhaps remote controlled toy airplanes.

    Android, for all the lack of spit shine (although Ice Cream Sandwich is buttery smooth and fast), is OPEN.

    Just wait and see next week, you will see what I mean. Android will be in more places. With home automation, appliances and such – none will run on iOS.

  • ddevito

    I agree with that.

  • ddevito

    I agree, there’s lots to love from both platforms. I prefer Android on a device I use the most, mostly because I can do more. iOS is perfect for a tablet – fast, solid and simple. Both platforms compliment each other.

    But to say Apple “dominates” CES is a bit strong.

  • Les Kern

    “open” is an illusion. and even if it was actually TRUE, what good does it do the average consumer? NONE! 
    Android is fooling you my friend, into thinking that they are somehow better because they are open when in fact they are not.
    But back to my question: What good is it if true?

  • Les Kern

    i hope they do. looking forward to possibly selecting TV ala carte. Tired of paying for all the QVC and religiousity channels I never watch.

  • ddevito

    I’m 1000% with you.

  • ddevito

    I really hope you’re simply trolling than asking me that question seriously.

    An open platform allows many many more people working, contributing, fixing and innovating on your platform. It spurs innovation at a much higher rate.

    Say what you want about how great Apple software is. I would agree with you 100%. But you are forgetting one thing: all of it, ALL of it was/is built upon from an OPEN platform.

    Wanna know why iOS and OS X run so well? Because they stem from UNIX. OS X is built on the Darwin kernel, which by the way is Open Source.

    Safari? Webkit – yes, it’s Apple’s – but it’s open sourced. And for a reason – they had help with it.

    Open = innovation.

    Take Microsoft as an argument for closed source platforms. Yup – they suck.

  • ddevito

    I sure do hope they “influence” TV manufacturers to make smarter TVs.

  • aardman

    The amazing thing, and this is a testament to the monopoly power that hey had, was that for years and years Microsoft was the big kahuna at CES even though as a consumer electronics company, they really are marginal players in terms of product breadth.  Even their main products (an OS that was designed mainly for the enterprise, and a suite of business software) are not as pure consumer products in the way that Sony’s or Samsung’s main products are.

    And frankly, when it comes to discerning what consumers want and delivering it, Microsoft just sucks.  So they really do not deserve to deliver the keynote in a trade show that is purportedly devoted to upcoming trends in consumer electronics.

  • ddevito

    Intel? No.

    ARM all the way

  • ddevito

    on a side note – Apple almost went with BSD instead of NeXT for OS X – yikes – imagine if that happened. 

  • Jonathan Nguyen

    this is a very biased article. all the praise about apple is getting kind of boring. theres a lot more stuff than ultra books, tables, and tv’s 

  • Jonathan Nguyen

    horrible article. its very biased.

  • Nutz320

    Not biased if it’s just correct. Biased is when someone favours one thing over another NOT FOR LOGICAL REASONS. Favouring something over another for logical reasons is not bias. It’s the truth.

  • Nutz320

    It’s sport! Some people just enjoy arguing for their platform, though it does lead to blindness in some cases, where they will not consider a device from another company if X company makes it already.

  • Nutz320

    Even as an Apple fanboy, I hate the way people can’t see the obvious truth: Apple gives a much better experience, but that comes at a cost: it’s closed, so there’s some apps that just won’t make it to iOS and iOS and some things you just can’t do with it. Apple will hold back some features, until they’ve perfected it for the user and will never allow others. Android allows you to do what you want, but that comes at a cost: it gives a worse experience to the user and fragments it.

  • chano

    They don’t have to bully them. 
    All they have to do is to show consumers a far better, more personal and selective way to buy entertainment. They will free the consumer from having to pay for the dross they do not want. These are compelling attractants, just as they were for music buyers.
    And, where the consumers go, their money folllows and the content providers have no choice.
    A win-win for consumers and producers of WANTED content.
    A grand failure for aggregators and craptent creators.
    Logical and it computes.
    And not a single act of bullying involved.

  • chano

    I’ll see your 1000% and raise you another.
    Hoo ahh!

  • chano

    You should take a long hard look at what people are paying for top-notch TVs around the world.
    Begin perhaps by checking out B&O and Loewe-Opta.
    I mean, how does $20,000 for a TV set grab you.
    I saw a plain vanilla (unsmart) TV in Malaysia for US$85,000.
    Compared to such lacklustre offerings, there are many people who would pay much more than $1500 for an Apple TV set.

  • ddevito

    That’s a biased reply. Lol j/k

    Everyone needs to get off Apple’s c0ck. (Not you)

  • ddevito

    Okay that’s extreme – I’m referring to average people.

    Computers will be computers.
    Smartphones will be smartphones.

    TVs are appliances. Yes there is HD but it is simply an appliance.

  • Saikou Otaku

    I love how no one comments on jail-breaking.  iOS can be unlocked at the price of Apple not supporting your device, meaning any issues must be fixed by 3rd parties or the owner of the device. 

    Running custom ROMs on Android also tends to void manufacturer’s warranty. Granted, Android is open and a developers joy, but distributing modified android can be a pain in the neck. 

  • tazh89

    samsung,sony,lg,vizio etc are making tvs suddenly because apple might is that what your saying,these companies have been in the tv industry forever and have had internet enabled tv,voice enabled tv,app enabled tv for a while so any new tv they reveal is just a new reveal and not because apple might make a tv….basically you saying if there wasn’t rumour of apple making a tv then these companies would not be making advancements on their tvs and not  be releasing newer models like they have been doing forever.

  • tazh89

    tell me about lol they think the world resolves around apple…what pisses me off is they call everything a wanna be,they saying there shouldnt be alternatives to apple products,if you want a think laptop,only apple can make it and if you want a thin laptop then buy  only apples,since when did having alternatives and choices become bad.example you dont see just one supercar,you see 1000′s of supercars yet no one in that industry is saying a porches are wanna be Ferraris etc…apple and its fans and its lovers such as cult of mac think that only apple can have a device and no one else can have it….if the tech industry though like that then guess what there would not be devices such as the iphones about. 

  • tazh89

    really arguing for a brand is sport lol. its unbelievable though like you say how many fanboys/girls  and even sites in either android,ios etc literately do become blinded regardless of facts. i really do believe this site is blinded for its love for apple,nearly every article i read is biased and has favouritism written all over. its always apple is right and apple is and apple is that.i know this is a apple site but they meant to be processionals and be impartial in what they right.  

  • tazh89

    thanks for explaining that to him/her,annoys me how some just dont know anything about what they write.

  • tazh89

    no matter how good and revolutionary apple tv or google tv maybe in the future but if theres no content then it will not succeed.look at web os great software but had no backing from developers meaning no content and look where its at…if apple or google cannot get the content providers then they will not be successful but i hope that they are successful cause i would love a pick what contents i want to watch and what i dont.

  • tazh89

    samungs,lg,sony smart tv are great already,in the uk you get iplayer,4od,itvplayer,5demand,youtube and apps built into the smart tv all ready and the only thing thats missing at the moment is having built in access to satellite contents and thats what i hope apple and google can bring because most of what people are talking about what apple tv or gtv may do or is doing is already being doing by smart tvs.

  • sir1jaguar

    To all istupid,imoron,izombie and iturds…

    WHAT APPLE INVENTED, NOTHING…

    THEY MARKET THEIR PRODUCTS SO GREAT, THAT’S WHY PEOPLE TAUGHT THAT THEIR PRODUCTS IS FIRST (even it’s not)…

    I have lots of apple products but never I’m an ifool…

    There more better company than apple BUT THEY ARE SUCK IN EXPLAINING THEIR CREATION…

    APPLE A GREAT MARKETER AND STEALER, COPIER AND BUYER OF OTHER INVENTION…

  • ddevito

    +1000

    AMEN

  • ddevito

    On a semi related side note – I believe Apple secretly allows jailbreaking (which if you think about it isn’t completely unlocking the device).

    I believe they allow it but won’t ever publicly admit it.

  • ddevito

    I would add a web browser to that. There is not a more open application on the planet than the web browser. I love surfing what I WANT to surf on my TV.

    And for that I love Google

  • ericthehalfbee

    Yeah, their portfolio of thousands of technical patents (not design patents, technical patents) and their army of engineers on staff do nothing but marketing.

    I went to WWDC last year and there were 1,000 Apple Engineers on hand to talk one-on-one with developers (like myself) to help you with App development. I didn’t come across 1,000 marketers there telling me how to convince people to buy my Apps.

  • ericthehalfbee

    You mean like ddevito?

    Android is NOT open source, only a fool who knows nothing about software development would say so.

    Open means multiple people contributing to the final product. That’s not how Android works. Google develops Android and then makes it available to manufacturers and allows them to modify it to suit their specific needs.

    If Android was truly open source, then Samsung would also be repsonsible for making changes to Android itself (like taking part in the development of ICS, instead of waiting for Google to finish ICS before they get to look at it and use it in their devices).

    Annoys me how some of you just don’t know anything about what open source really means,

  • Rad_Middle

    Yes, they’re stodgy and reliant on biz sales, however, you are conveniently leaving out X-Box (an entry into TV as well as gaming), X-Box software of MS’s devising, Kinect (an new UI that can migrate in both functions and devices controlled), the Ford Sync line, Hotmail and the whole stable of LIVE products (Office, SkyDrive, etc. – which many consumers use), MSN, Bing, Messenger, Mice, Keyboards (I assume they’re still making the last two), the upcoming Metro Tabs and Phones which are more “consumer-oriented” than old Windows, an emerging raft of iOS apps and likely others that slip my mind, and, of course… …Microsoft Bob.  

  • Luis Dominguez

    Of course there will always be those people who argue or the sake of arguing.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love competition between these people.  That is, after all, what makes so many companies to strive to reach something better and that is great for the consumer.  If it weren’t for Android, IOS 5 wouldn’t probably have a notification bar like it does now.  It also goes vise versa for  Android borrowing from Apple.  But as far as people blindly following a company I just don’t agree.

  • Rad_Middle

    calling the big media companies bullied – given their history toward their own talent – is faintly amusing…..

  • ddevito

    I’m a software developer moron, try again troll.

    And by the way:

    http://source.android.com/ – READ IT – IT’S OPEN SOURCE YOU IGNORANT FOOL

    Just because OEMs can’t change the FINAL code once it’s RELEASED doesn’t make it a closed platform. God you blind iSheep are so ignorant.

    So yes, Samsung amongst other OEMs can take the SOURCE code, MAKE CHANGES, and RELEASE it on their phones. Yes, that is what open source is, you dumb ignoramus.

    Idiot

  • ddevito

    What does that have to do with anything? NO one is doubting their engineers. But the company is run by marketers and advertising. It’s a glitzy 21st century retail chain – successful – but a retail chain.

    COnsider them the Sears of 2012. They make shiny objects, they aren’t innovating and aren’t pushing the industry forward. They simply make cool shiny gadgets our grandparents can use (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

    But dominating CES they aren’t.

  • dennisfisher

    Apple is in an unprecedented position because of the remarkable products, user interfaces, and ecosystem that they have created. You may not like it, but articles like this are pervasive because of Apple’s unprecedented successes. They can’t keep it up forever, no company can. But right now, no matter how maddening you might find it, they get attention because they deserve it.

  • ericthehalfbee

    Apple is a hardware/software manufacturing company that’s also very good at marketing.

    The original comment above (which I see has been flagged) stated Apple doesn’t create or innovate anything, which is 100% false and typical propoganda spread by the haters.

    And so far they are dominating CES (in any area related to what they do).

    - There have already been numerous tablet announcments, and, of course, all are being compared to the iPad.
    - Same thing with the Ultrabook announcements.
    - Tons of TV related announcements from an ICS powered 55″ TV to variations of Google TV, again all being compared to “what Apple will do for TV”.
    - Samsung has a new AirPlay competitor.
    - Tons of new Apple docks, interfaces, AirPLay receivers and accessories.

    Practically every announcement I see is either about Apple related products or compared to Apple.

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  • skps

    Dear Mr. Elgan,

    Though I do agree with almost every point that you make here, the tone in which you are saying it all seems a bit… snooty. Kinda feeding that Apple fanboy stereotype and all.

  • skps

    Dear Mr. Elgan,

    Though I do agree with almost every point that you make here, the tone in which you are saying it all seems a bit… snooty. Kinda feeding that Apple fanboy stereotype and all.

About the author

Mike ElganMike Elgan writes about technology and culture for a wide variety of publications. Follow Mike on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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