Things to keep an eye out for at CES '09

Last year at this time, I was doing my typical routine to get ready for CES. You know: glance at the advance program to see what new products are going to be at the show, like residential gateways or cordless DECT phones, and then trek across the floor to make sure I don't miss anything that's going to impact desktop IP communications.
Then 2008 happened and everything changed.
For years the enterprise market space has been the big driver in the technology industry. Business got behind the personal computer and it took off. Then PC software and new generations of PC hardware took off too. We got a lot of mileage out of the PC. But in '08 it started to dawn on me. If it hasn't already happened, the enterprise as technology driver is being replaced by the consumer. And that's why CES '09 offers so much promise. The blinders are coming off.
I just looked at the CES website and noticed the technology segments that are going to be featured at the show. In the past, I would have made special note of the segments that I thought would have the most impact on CPE equipment. Audio would have been of interest. Home networking as well. But this year, I'm going to recommend that CES attendees take a serious look at what 'consumer' trends catch their eye.
The 2D and 3D graphics coming out the gaming segment might look great in desktop IP phones. Not the games, of course, but the graphics would be cool. And let's face it; we're all consumers first before we're enterprise users. We bring our consumer expectations to the job with us. We expect desktop phones to be as smart and easy to use as our wireless smartphones. And why can't my desktop phone be as cool as my smartphone?
For IP communications designers, I'd recommend taking a long hard look at technologies you may not have focused on at previous CES events. That's certainly what I've done in the past - and it's not just a matter of curiosity on my part, it's a reality. As a chip maker, TI has to have a long horizon. The technology that we start developing today won't be in chips for a couple of years and then it won't be in our customers' products for another year.
Of course, taking a couple of years to develop a technology or a product is how the industry could react when the enterprise was the driver. That's all changed now that the consumer is in the driver's seat. Consumer product cycles are so fast they make your head swim. Think of the enterprise market as the local train that stops every couple of minutes on the way to its destination. The consumer market is like one of those non-stop express trains - a bullet train.
I don't know about you, but I'd suggest hopping on the express at CES.  And when you're back, I'd love to hear from you on some of the cool things you saw there this year.
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