Why CES needs a kick in the behind

Steve Dinneen
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How many big names can a band lose before they have to call it a day? Axl Rose just about managed to keep Guns ‘n’ Roses going, despite being the last original member, but only because his ego generates enough gravity to glue the fabric of the universe together. The Sugarbabes went one step further, sticking around despite replacing every single member, but only because they were so faceless nobody noticed (they have now gone through so many people they are back to the original lineup).

After this year, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) will have to deal with life after Microsoft – one of its star attractions. Chief executive Steve Ballmer gave his final keynote speech on Tuesday before leaving the stage for good, joining Apple on the list of companies who feel the show isn’t for them. People had been waiting for him to announce the new Xbox, which would have been a fitting final farewell. But he didn’t – he spoke about Windows instead and we already knew about that.

This year’s expo has suffered from a dearth of groundbreaking releases. Intel’s announcement of a deal to supply chips for Motorola smartphones was big news – but it is hard to get excited about micro processors. The ingredients were all there – shiny new TVs with pictures so sharp you need goggles to look at them; laptops so thin they can double up as cigarette papers; smart vacuum cleaners; wacky iPod docks. The problem is, it all sounds a bit familiar. Once again 3D was top of the agenda, with manufacturers insisting this could be the year it finally goes mainstream. But they said that last year. Interactivity – using motion sensing cameras or voice commands to change the TV channel or browse the internet – is another recycled buzzword, made somewhat redundant by the ubiquitousness of the Xbox Kinect.

I want space-age gadgets; invisibility cloaks and nano robots that can crawl across the surface of your mind. Not that it will stop me from buying whatever tat is on show. I’ll be the first one queueing. I’m not proud; it’s a sickness. I might start a support group.