We are at a turning point in terms of gadget manufacturing. The heavy hitters in hardware – the Sonys, the Samsungs, the LGs – are stuck in the mire of slow innovation. We haven’t heard much out of that camp this year – they’re keeping CES plans under wraps – but I suspect we’ll see a few big TVs and some thin laptops and a nice fridge or two and little else. The real innovation is happening far out in the periphery where hardware is an extension of software and smart devices are now the fastest moving consumer goods.
For most of the last decade the TC team hit CES and wandered the halls, writing about as many gadgets as possible and filling up the page with update after update. Recently there’s been little need. Some of the best products – from the Pebble to this amazing 3D scanner – have come out of small design houses. Devices like 3D printers get short shrift at CES but they’re some of the most exciting new CE products on earth. Quantified self gear is underrepresented as are consumer robotics. Wearables may be big this year, but hardware makers don’t know how to build them correctly. Clearly only Google and Eric Migicovsky do.
What are we doing at CES? We’re going to do our regularly scheduled live run through of all of the halls – you guys seem to enjoy that every year so we’re maintaining the tradition. But the real action will be around the convention center. Last year we spent 90% of our time in our own booth, out on the CES parking lot. It was open to all comers, you didn’t need to have a badge for CES, and we were in the perfect spot to grab foot traffic. And grab it we did. In the hours we spent out there we met the guys from Gtar, Zivix, and Pebble. We saw folks making amazing heads-up displays, cool chip designs, and wearables. We interviewed the CEOs of Dropcam and Fitbit and generally ignored the festival inside. Who needs to film a nicer TV when the future is wandering the parking lot?
This year is even better. We’re running our own Hardware Battlefield where one lucky hardware startup will win $50,000. We’re inviting some amazing judges including Bre Pettis, Slava Rubin, and Trae Vassallo. We’ll also be holding interviews in our tent and meeting and greeting members of the Las Vegas tech community.
Want to join us? Just look for our tent on the LVCC grounds and hang out. We need an audience and you don’t need a badge to come by. We’ll be doing giveaways as well, so maybe you can grab yourself a bit of gear.
Hardware is different now. It’s not the domain of the big guy. In fact, they’ve already lost.