Judging the value of CES, and network battles in the digital age

Kirk Skaugen, Intel Vice President, announces new developments at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 7, 2013.

13,000 gadgets in one great silicon and battery-powered cauldron. The International Consumer Electronics Show is officially open in Las Vegas today. You'd think that a man who writes a technology column for Reuters would have been first in line, but John Abell says he's not going because the show made the most sense in the E.B.W. -- Era Before Web.

"The the internet came along and video-conferencing and email and Twitter. And honestly, if you look at the reason that people had to gather and be drawn to a certain place at a certain time, none of those reasons exist anymore," says Abell.

While folks could go online to see new stuff instead, remember it's also a trade show where person-to-person, business-to-business deals are made, something we'll be following this week. Plus, it's a maelstrom of serendipity.

One device getting some buzz at the show? A smart fork. It's basically a fork that is supposed to help you eat more slowly, and therefore lose weight.

Philipe Monteiro, with HapiLabs who created the fork, says, "It's the first smart utensil that helps you lose weight by eating at the right time at the right pace."

The fork has a big handle with blinking lights.

"The blinking tells you, 'ok, now it's time to take another bite. And if you eat too fast, you feel a gentle vibration," Monteiro explains.

And fancier than high-definition at the show? Ultra high definition. Today Samsung took the wraps off what will be a very expensive 85 inch flat screen TV with four times the resolution as regular HD. The trick for early adopters is finding a source of movies or other content to feed this thing.  


If this give us a look at the near-future of TV sets, we are also getting a glimpse of the future of TV distribution. Universal Pictures is going to make its big movies available to online viewers only through HBO. Significantly, the deal with the HBO Go online service means Neflix customers will get cut off from new Universal movies.

"Well HBO Go, specifically, I would say, is cable and studio friendly because of the fact that you are only able to access HBO Go, not only with an HBO television subscription, but also a cable television subscription," says Northwestern University Radio/TV professor Max Dawson.

See, Universal is part of Comcast which owns lots of cable TV systems around the country.  Netflix is not a member of the family.

"Netflix is presenting itself and being percieved by consumers as an alternative to the tradional distribution channels, namely cable," says Dawson.

While Netflix lost Universal Pictures, it has signed a long-term streaming deal for fresh Disney movies.

Also,  another player in cable is taking a new plunge into delivering TV through the net.  At CES, Time Warner Cable is announcing a deal to deliver some channels through a set top box made by a company called Roku. It's online but not mobile, designed to only work at home, so that somebody in, say, the basement can watch TV on the laptop.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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