What Online Marketers Can Learn from CES 2012

The annual International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, better known as CES, just wrapped up. It attracted some 140,000 attendees despite the fact that Apple was conspicuously absent. It is tempting to say CES is nothing more than a venue for gadget one-upmanship, but analyzing the product introductions can give us a sense of where technology is headed in the next twelve months – and the impact it may have for online marketers.

As one might expect, technology vendors are always pushing themselves to add functionality while driving down price so they can remain competitive in what has become a fierce battle for market share. That’s usually good news for the consumer, who benefits from getting tremendous value. Increasingly, though, the best values come from second-tier players who may have lower brand awareness. As a result, a consumer who wants to be on the cutting edge may at times be making a leap of faith by purchasing a product with a lesser-known name.

Android and Microsoft Make a Splash

This is especially true of the Android-enabled market. Look at Android as the modern-day equivalent of the early PC days, when Microsoft’s operating system dominated and a slew of PC brands flooded the market, drove the price of the PC down, and weeded out the weaker players. It’s much the same with the Android operating system, which cell phone, tablet and now smart TV manufacturers are incorporating into their devices. If nothing else, this suggests that online marketers need to build Android-friendly apps rather than concentrate entirely on the Apple-dominated app market.

Interestingly, even though Microsoft announced before CES that this year would be its last show, the company may have made its biggest splash yet. There was surprisingly positive buzz about the Microsoft Windows Phone operating system. In fact, Nokia, the Finnish cell phone maker that has steadily lost U.S. market share, scored a coup with its Windows Phone-enabled Nokia Lumia 900, which won the “Best of CES” smartphone award from CNET. Again, the implication for online marketers is to watch the Windows Phone market and be ready to take advantage of it as it gains traction. Microsoft Windows 8, which takes it cues from Windows Phone, was also unveiled for the desktop market.

Small Screens and Big Screens

Perhaps the most interesting contrast at CES was the activity at both ends of the size spectrum.

Other than cell phones, the small screen market was dominated by tablets and “ultrabooks,” thin and powerful laptop computers. While last year’s show saw a massive influx of tablets in response to Apple’s iPad, this year’s show was more about creating a knock-off of Amazon’s smaller, cheaper Kindle Fire. Asian competitors in particular are positioned to take a run at Amazon, including AsusTek Computer, a Taiwanese company that unveiled a $249 tablet with more firepower than Fire – absent, of course, Amazon’s burgeoning digital library. The industry signal: Online marketers need to be increasingly sensitive to the tablet as a market all its own.

On the large screen side, giant (55-inch) OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) TVs were unveiled by LG and Samsung in the hope that this newer technology will wow consumers with extremely high contrast, rich colors, and an ultra-thin profile. But the anticipated price point, which could be $5,000 or higher, might simply continue to create demand for lower priced HD TVs.

The more significant development for online marketers, however, was the evolution of the smart TV. For example, Boo-Keun Yoon, Samsung’s President and Head of the Consumer Electronics Division, said the company will be offering “new TVs that recognize and respond to you, connect your family in and out of the home, and offer amazing new content options personalized to your lifestyle and needs.”

At CES, Samsung introduced “Smart Interaction,” enabling consumers to communicate with their TVs via Voice Control, Motion Control, and Face Recognition and “Smart Content,” which offers more than 1,400 Smart TV apps, and “AllShare Play,” which enables content to move from device to device, and from device to cloud, regardless of location.

While smart TV is in its infancy, online marketers need to keep an eye on it, especially because it represents a new market for seamless integration of television and Web browsing.

CES is as good a predictor as any of things to come. Online marketers who pay attention to it should be in a position to stay in tune with the market this year – and into the future.

About Barry Silverstein

Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to Brandchannel.com, the world’s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.