Why Apple (officially) skips CES
This may seem like the most obvious Backstage entry ever, but it’s worth mentioning for those who have wondered why Apple skips CES - at least, why it doesn’t have any official presence on the show floors. Even after the huge video games industry walked away from CES a decade ago, this show has grown radically in size, and the sheer number of products and announcements here is now staggering. For even the most savvy attendee, it’s like walking through the government’s patent office on the day that 60% of the year’s new supposed inventions are being filed. There is just so much, and so many overlapping claims from different people, that it’s hard to know where to begin.
(Click on Read More for the details.)
There are two consequences to having such a huge show. First, even the most attentive consumers - read: gadget lovers - hear so many conflicting messages about new products and services, that they don’t know which to buy. Many of the announcements aren’t actually followed by releases for months. So CES becomes a collection of things for electronics geeks to keep watching and comparing over the next quarter- to half-year.
Second, members of the media here have to struggle to figure out what’s important. And that’s just too hard for many or most mainstream publications, which want to cover the event, but not spend five days digging for goodies. So rather than hitting the floor, researching what’s there, and filing a late report on what was actually good, mainstream journalists use keynote speeches as a proxy, and focus disproportionately on what’s said there. For instance, the big topic of discussion between editors for two major newspapers at the CES Press Room earlier today was getting seats at (and providing coverage of) the Microsoft keynote. What actually important 2006 products did Microsoft ultimately debut there? Not a lot. But that’s where the journalists were.
Officially, Apple just stays away. It lets Microsoft and Sony make speeches on their new music download services (which are promised (again) to be better than the last ones), HP announce support for Real’s download service, and five other companies announce or hype new download services no one will actually care about. Apple also lets Toshiba, Samsung, LG, Archos, and ten other companies announce competing, confusing new digital media player offerings at the same time, fighting for attention and relevance. The press releases come out, the products get shown, and they’re quickly forgotten. Yes, Apple employees show up at CES to track what’s going on. But one gets the sense that most of what happens here is almost irrelevant - a lot of money and time spent by thousands of companies that will ultimately attract only handfuls of customers.
Why not take part in CES? Apple is bold (and now powerful) enough to create its own spotlight, and then doesn’t have to share it. Better yet, after all the CES clatter has ended, the company has seen all of the cards that have been put on the table before it shows its own hand at Macworld. This gives the company an oratory advantage: foreknowledge. Last year, when Bill Gates’s CES keynote demos continually crashed or wouldn’t work properly, he (and Microsoft) came across looking ridiculous on stage. In a later sly reference to those crashes, Steve Jobs - himself dealing with an unexpected problem - simply flipped to a backup computer, noting that Apple had bothered to think about this before delivering the speech. Would he have been so prepared if Gates hadn’t so conspicuously and repeatedly dropped the ball days earlier?
This approach also helps the company control the delivery of its media message. Journalists and their camera crews don’t have to choose which press conference to cover, figure out what’s worthwhile, or try to create a compelling message. Apple knows mainstream journalists are equally important, and pressed for time. So it delivers almost all of the big announcements to them (and thus, the world) in a single keynote speech at the start of Macworld, and then makes key executives and representatives available for immediate follow-up. It’s efficient, and the resulting press coverage is incredibly focused as a result.
Combined with a favorable “home crowd” packed with fans, the result can be electric. If the company has announced something really compelling, the lines start forming literally as soon as people know they can buy whatever Apple’s announced. And months later, when you look at Amazon and other sales charts, Apple consumer electronic products have outsold ... well, everything shown at the Consumer Electronics Show. That really says something.
If following Apple and its products has taught me anything, it’s this: there’s tremendous value in simplicity and focus, most likely more than having the combined strengths of 100 new and different products packed into one device. Standing in the center of the CES maelstrom underscores this lesson a hundred-fold.
If you have a comment, news tip, advertising inquiry, or coverage request, a question about iPods or accessories, or if you sell or market products, read iLounge's Comments + Questions policies before posting, and fully identify yourself if you do. We will delete comments containing advertising, astroturfing, trolling, personal attacks, offensive language, or other objectionable content, then ban and/or publicly identify violators. Wondering why we're talking about something other than iPods? Check the Archives: Backstage has been here and kicking it since 2004.
- Apple Watch unboxing gallery posted
- iLounge Weekly coming Monday, sign up now
- FoneFox posts Apple Watch waterproof testing video
- iFixit posts Apple Watch teardown
- Apple posts Apple Watch User Guide
- Apple planning to release new iPod touch later this year?
- Nokia shopping around its Maps division, courting Apple
- Apple Watch pre-orders arriving tomorrow, Apple posts more Guided Tours
- Security flaw opens iOS devices to attack using fake WiFi hotspots
- Security flaw leaves about 1,500 iOS apps vulnerable to attack
- Zagg Pocket Keyboard
- Adonit Jot Script 2
- Rokform Rokfolio Wallet Case for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
- Parrot Bebop Drone
- Soen Audio Transit XS Wireless Speaker
- Divoom Voombox-party Portable Bluetooth Speaker
- Scosche MagicMount XL Dash/Window
- Theo Power Jump + Power Jump Wireless for iPhone 6
- VERT Wearable Fitness Monitor
- OORT SmartFinder, SmartLED + SmartSocket
- Why can’t I see the iPad-style landscape view on my iPhone 6 Plus?
- Is there a point to having both iCloud Photo Library and iCloud Photo Stream enabled?
- Why can’t I set a longer passcode timeout on my iPhone 6 Plus?
- Can I turn off Message Read Receipts for only some users?
- How do I share one iCloud Photo Library within a family?
- Can I turn off the app icons that appear in the bottom corner on the lock screen?
- Why do I have two separate conversations with the same person in Messages?
- Can I transfer the existing version of an app to my new iPhone?
- How do I quickly erase all of the contacts on my old iPhone?
- How do I disassociate my phone number from iMessage?