Observations from CES 2011: NBC, Comcast, Motorola Xoom and the New Company that Will Change TV Navigation

With all the focus by technology companies on "content" and "social media," there was a surprisingly low presence of traditional media companies.
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The new Motorola Xoom has been widely heralded as the most successful product innovation at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, and I agree but with a caveat. The real winner was Google and its new Honeycomb Android operating system. With multi-tasking, Adobe Flash, front camera, dual core 2.0 MGz, high definition, and a comfortable size between the iPad and Samsung Galaxy, Motorola and other manufacturers that are integrating Honeycomb are well positioned to give iPad a run for their money and to dull the recent success of Microsoft’s Windows 7 tablet and smartphone products.

In this week’s Jack Myers Media Business Report, headlined "CES 2011: And the Walls Came Tumbling Down. The Year CES Became a Content Show," I share my insights on the implications of CES for marketers, content producers, agencies and media companies… as well as investors. With all the focus by technology companies on “content” and “social media,” there was a surprisingly low presence of traditional media companies. The reason may be a broadcast industry backlash against the Consumer Electronics Association’s support and advocacy for FCC regulations that propose recapturing broadband spectrum from broadcast stations. But with content all over the screens at the presentation booths of every major CE manufacturer, the invisibility of broadcast networks and most cable networks at the show was notable.

NBCU’s presence at CES shrunk significantly from last year, and the network’s purpose there was confusing. A few MSNBC and CNBC shows were aired live, but the hosts’ presence at CES was hardly noted and CES coverage was minimal. At least NBC was there; ABC, Fox and Disney/ABC had no presence at all, and neither did any of the major cable groups, the cable operators or the Hollywood studios. In the future, they will be there supporting the CE manufacturers who are carrying their content and selling to those who are not.

►Comcast and Time Warner Cable executives were touring the floor, but they did not take advantage of the CES opportunity to explain their competitive value and difference to consumers and to the CE industry. Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes appeared with Verizon chairman Ivan Seidenberg during his keynote address. I understand Comcast is in a quiet period as they wait for final government approval of their NBCU acquisition. But with so much focus on content distribution, the cable industry will need to step up their presence at future CES shows.

►I was blown away by only one technology, demonstrated at the hidden booth of PrimeSense, where I spoke with president Aviad Maizeis. The Israeli company provides the technological backbone of Microsoft’s Kinect service. I’m convinced, after seeing PrimeSense in action, that the future of the television operating system in defined and clear. Expect PrimeSense to soon announce a relationship with Intel, which will exponentially accelerate the evolution to a one screen synchronous, integrated TV + Internet system. Turn on the screen and up will pop your favorite apps, free and paid. With its front camera (for Skype), the TV will conduct a brief facial and body recognition process and deliver your personalized app screens. With the slightest movement of your wrist and fingers, you’ll scroll through your apps, point to open an app, “touch” the air in front of you to bring up the TV and online controls. You can easily type on the keyboard and multitask. Audio recognition built into the TV will identify the programming you’re viewing and offer you the option to open officially sanctioned online content. Of course, you’ll have full DVR, social engagement, check-in, commerce and other applications, all available seamlessly from your couch with just the flick of a wrist. And you’ll constantly receive the opt-in messages entitling sponsors and app-underwriters to information on your behavior, in return for which you’ll receive viewing credits, incentives and prizes.

GE was relegated to a small booth in an out-of-the-way area? GE was one of very few companies that focused on green, education and other socially aware technologies within the consumer electronics space.

Toshiba bet the farm on Glasses Free 3D TV. 3D received the biggest play at CES, with a ubiquitous presence at booth after booth. The companies that focused on glasses free 3D, including Sony and Toshiba, had their longest lines for these display areas. We are still a couple of years away from true glasses free 3D, but my best guess is that three to five years from now, almost all TVs will have glasses free 3D technology with wide consumer adoption.

Logitech made their bed with Google TV and focused their presentation booth on their relationship with Google TV. While several manufacturers such as Sony also incorporated Google TV into their presentations, Logitech made it their central focus. Unfortunately, two weeks before show time, Google TV announced a delay of their launch and asked companies to minimize their use of the Google TV platform. Tough for Logitech.

XM/Sirius made a compelling presentation of its multiple platforms, including a portable and aftermarket car product, that should leave radio broadcasters quaking. The National Association of Broadcasters meets here in Las Vegas in a couple months. It will be interesting to compare the shows.

The audience composition at CES is very heavily male centric -- middle age and older. Other than Asians, the number of people of color was very low. Over the next few years, as the role of content and social media gains prominence in the consumer electronics industry, the number of women, younger people and people of color attending CES will hopefully increase.

Jack Myers can be reached at Jack@mediadvisorygroup.com. JackMyersThinkTank is free and underwritten, as part of MediaBizBloggers.com, by subscriptions to Jack Myers Media Business Report (www.jackmyers.com). Subscribe free to all MediaBizBloggers reports at www.MediaBizBloggers. For Jack Myers Media Business Report subscription information visit www.myersreport.com or contact Jack Myers at Jack@mediadvisorygroup.com. Jack Myers and Media Advisory Group provide details on all underwriters and companies in which we have an investment at www.jackmyers.com.

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