Coverage From the Exhibition Floor and Beyond

CES Wrap: Big Show, Big Winners

Microsoft out, but who's coming in?

By Scott Budman
|  Friday, Jan 13, 2012  |  Updated 6:30 AM PDT
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CES Wrap:  Big Show, Big Winners

LG's "Blast Chiller" can chill a bottle of wine in record time. The technology is still Energy Star rated -- and it's a metaphor for CES, overall.

To paraphrase a Canadian singer who does huge business here in Las Vegas (and no, I'm not talking about Justin Bieber), somehow, the show will go on.

At least, when it comes to CES, we think it will.

All skepticism aside, CES was bananas this year. It was huge, with more vendors than we've seen, and more people cramming into the booths to see the new merchandise. Yes, there is a big question mark with Microsoft stepping away, but, really, does Microsoft represent the future direction of technology anymore? 

Perhaps next year, we'll get a keynote address from an up-and-coming CEO, now that Microsoft's Steve Ballmer has decided to step aside, taking his tweeting gospel choir with him.

As for the big winners, we found some: Pandora, from Oakland, scored big by announcing that the music service will be in lots of cars this year. Good for some nice buzz on the CES show floor, good also for a stock pop (Nasdaq: P) on the news.

Nokia is also, arguably, a winner. It's soon-to-be-released 900 smartphone got consistent crowds checking it out every day.  It comes with a slick design, and a more powerful, easy to use Windows software inside. Can it deliver big sales?  We'll see, but people haven't been interested in Nokia for some time.

Speaking of phones, can Intel deliver with its phone? Not available during the actual announcement, Intel let some people check out the phone later in the show -- initial impressions have been mixed. Intel did a bit better with its Ultra Books. This is the latest laptop craze, thin design with lots of power. Companies like Asus and HP will try to distract consumers from the Apple MacBook Air.

Speaking of Apple, they always seem to look good by not showing up to CES. With the gaggle of "smart" TVs getting touched and talked to at CES, I got the feeling that companies like Samsung, Panasonic and LG are hoping that Apple someday makes this a must-have category, like they did with tablets.

LG, by the way, had the biggest crowds I've seen at a non-Lady Gaga CES event. Their TVs were popular, no doubt, but so much attention was paid to its refrigerators, we had to check them out. One of them, the "Blast Chiller," rotates your drink (soft drink, beer, wine, whatever) while blasting with cold air to chill it faster than we could before. It's a conversation piece, if you have the extra dough.

Finally, the lesson of CES this year might come from that very refrigerator. OK, so Microsoft's leaving, and OK, Apple's probably never coming. CES is bursting at the seems, but still ought to make some changes to stay relevant. Let's see some younger, faster-moving companies in here.  Maybe some software makers who are really changing the game for consumers.

Would it kill the convention to start with a Jack Dorsey or Jeff Bezos or Alan Mulally? I'm guessing it would probably help.

Let's be like that refrigerator, and chill. Consumer products are only going to multiply, because we love them.  Why not have a place where we can get together and check them out?

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know.  I'm on Twitter:  @scottbudman

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