Saturday, January 11, 2014

CES 2014: Highs, lows and WTF moments

The 2014 International CES, better known by its old name the Consumer Electronics Show, ended its week-long run in Las Vegas on Friday.
What follows is my annual list of observations that didn’t make it into my official coverage of the show for Investor’s Business Daily and (For a rundown of my news coverage of the show, click here.)

CES buzzword of the year: Curved 

The biggest buzzword at this year’s show was “curved.”
LG Electronics, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony all prominently displayed curved-screen Ultra HD televisions at their exhibits.
Huawei, LG and Samsung also showed off curved-screen smartphones. Plus, a host of companies had smartwatches and fitness bands with curved displays.

CES buzzwords through the years:

2010: Green
2011: Smart
2012: Ultra
2013: Super
2014: Curved

Best keynote address: Yahoo 

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer headlined the best keynote address at CES 2014.
She drew a rock star-sized crowd at the 1,700-seat LVH Theater. The charismatic young executive delivered news and entertainment in her presentation.
Mayer announced an acquisition (Aviate), a mobile news app (Yahoo News Digest), digital magazines (Yahoo Tech and Yahoo Food), and a new suite of online advertising technology.
She was joined by recent hires Katie Couric (veteran broadcast journalist turned Yahoo global anchor), David Pogue (former New York Times tech columnist turned Yahoo vice president of editorial for Yahoo Tech), Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp and Summly creator Nick D’Aloisio.
On the downside, Mayer needs to work on her speaking skills. She came across as stiff and uncomfortable. It wouldn’t hurt her to smile more and show some enthusiasm.
Recognizing that it was Las Vegas, Mayer entertained the crowd with performances by Grammy Award-winning singer and musician John Legend and “Saturday Night Live” comics Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson.
See her keynote, minus Legend and the SNL stars, on Yahoo Screen.
For a transcript of the SNL sketch at Yahoo’s keynote, click here.

Best press event: WWE 

World Wrestling Entertainment knows how to put on a fun show. The sports entertainment company introduced its WWE Network at the show.
As the first major 24/7 over-the-top television network, WWE made news at CES. But its press event at the Wynn Hotel was a blast. It featured comedic turns and showy machismo by some of WWE’s pro wrestlers including Triple H, John Cena and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Second best press event: MakerBot 

MakerBot, a unit of Stratasys, launched three new 3D printers along with new services at an intimate event at the Mandalay Bay.
3D printing was a hot topic at CES this year because of more affordable, easier-to-use consumer printers. The technology appears poised to break through to mainstream users this year.
What made MakerBot’s press event a winner was the enthusiasm and personality of co-founder and CEO Bre Pettis.

Best company-sponsored concert: Monster 

Monster Inc., a top maker of audio and video products, celebrated its 35th anniversary with a bash at the Paris Hotel, topped by a concert by rock group Fleetwood Mac.
TV and radio personality Nick Cannon hosted the company’s retailer awards and music event. Singer Javier Colon, season-one winner of “The Voice,” performed as the opening act.
It was great to see Fleetwood Mac again. The last time I saw them perform was 25 years ago, when Christine McVie was with the band, but not Lindsey Buckingham.
The band performed “The Chain,” “Dreams,” “Second Hand News,” “Tusk” (a highlight of the show for me), “Rhiannon,” “Big Love,” “Eyes of the World,” “Gold Dust Woman,” and “I’m So Afraid.” I had to catch a cab to the airport at that point. I wish I could have stayed till the end.

Companies copying Apple at the show 

Apple doesn’t exhibit at CES, but usually other companies at the show are trying to copy its products or beat its rumored products to market. Apple’s influence wasn’t felt as much at this year’s CES compared with past shows. But there were a few times when companies were obviously imitating Apple.
Samsung debuted two tablets with the word Pro in the name. That’s something Apple has done with its MacBook line and is rumored to be doing with its iPad line. And one of those Samsung tablets, the Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 has large screen (12.2 inches, naturally), similar to what Apple is working on for its iPad Pro. The word “pro” signifies professional and is used for higher-end products.
At the show, 3D printer maker 3D Systems used the Pro moniker for a more expensive version of its consumer printer, the CubePro.
And two companies used Apple-style theatrics in their presentations.
MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis did a version of Steve Jobs’ “one more thing” bit to make a big announcement at the end of his press conference. Only Pettis used “Oh, and…” for his reveal. Like Jobs, Pettis had the words projected on a screen behind him.
Like Apple’s events, Yahoo ended its presentation with a musical performance from a headliner (John Legend).

Fun extra: Premiere party for “Intelligence” 

I attended the premiere party for the new CBS series “Intelligence” starring Josh Holloway (“Lost”), Marg Helgenberger (“CSI”) and Meghan Ory (“Once Upon a Time”).
It was held at the Tao Las Vegas nightclub at the Venetian Hotel and hosted by CBS Interactive unit Cnet.

Worst flop at CES: Michael Bay 

Long after the products introduced at CES are forgotten, people will remember director Michael Bay’s epic fail at the Samsung press event at the Mandalay Bay.
The “Transformers” filmmaker appeared to have a panic attack when his teleprompter malfunctioned and his attempt at improvising failed. He said “Excuse me. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” and rushed off the stage.
His on-stage meltdown blew up Twitter and social media. Professional and amateur comics made wise cracks about the incident. Some people came to his defense, sharing their own fears of public speaking.
Here are some of my favorite responses on Twitter.

“Michael Bay stormed off stage at CES after his teleprompter broke. No script, big explosion & a disappointed audience. Dude’s still got it!” wrote Funny or Die.

“Any comedian could’ve told Michael Bay never to try out new stuff at a corporate gig,” comedian Matt Goldich said.

“‘I’ll just wing this.’ - Michael Bay when he started directing ‘Pearl Harbor,’” comedy writer Mike DiCenzo said.

“Apparently Michael Bay thought they could just fix it in post,” said Gizmodo writer Matt Novak.

“Hey Michael Bay, when this sort of thing happens you just yell “Line!” wrote Yahoo Games senior editor Ben Silverman.

“I thought Michael Bay seemed downright presidential at the CES in Vegas today,” said comedian Dennis Miller.

“Unlike Michael Bay I stay on stage and let the audience leave,” said comedian Gilbert Gottfried.

“Michael Bay’s CES meltdown: ‘From infomercial schlock to complete humiliation in less than a minute,’” wrote.

“Michael Bay stars in this action-packed CES thriller, presented by Samsung!” advertising agency Initiative said, along with a fake movie poster. (See photo above.)

“For the first time in 20 years, the absence of a script proves to be an actual issue for Michael Bay,” said writer Brian Collins.

“Even Michael Bay can’t explain his value as a director,” said comedy writer Mike Rotman.

“Michael Bay should have asked his old buddy Shia LaBeouf to quickly come up with something for him to say,” IGN TV executive editor Eric Goldman wrote. (LaBeouf has been under fire lately for plagiarism.)

“Michael Bay walked out of that auditorium faster than I did watching the last Transformers movie,” wrote blogger Jill Badlotto.

“YOU HAD ONE JOB TELEPROMPTER, ONE JOB,” tweeted blogger James Pettigrove.

“Michael Bay on Amazon right now, giving every teleprompter a negative review,” said BuzzFeed writer Samir Mezrahi.

Here’s a few more quickly made parody movie posters about the Bay incident by writer Charles Gerian. (Posted to Twitter here and here.)

Photos: Samsung U9000 curved-screen Ultra HD TV (Samsung photo); 
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer speaks at the 2014 CES (CEA photo); 
WWE Network launch event with Stephanie McMahon, Paul “Triple H” Levesque and Shawn Michaels (Patrick Seitz photo); 
MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis at CES 2014 press event (Patrick Seitz photo); 
Fleetwood Mac in concert at Monster event at CES 2014 (Monster photo); 
Huffington Post coverage of the Michael Bay incident at CES 2014; 
Fake Michael Bay movie poster by advertising agency Initiative; 
Fake Michael Bay movie posters by Charles Gerian. 

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