On the first day of CES in Las Vegas, a running theme that stands out amidst all the gadgetry and technology is that the explosion in innovation is being driven by regular folks. Like the people who listen to radio.
A spectacularly produced morning keynote presentation featured execs from Verizon, Time Warner, Motorola, and Google. And the connecting fiber all revolved around how the consumer is setting the tone for development and innovation.
Jeff Bewkes, the head of Time Warner, made it clear that it's all about consumers and what they love to watch on TV. He preached that the main idea is to "Watch what you love. Anywhere. Anytime." And he questioned why anyone needs a PhD to be able to enjoy TV, magazines, or other content on the screen or gadget of your choosing. The need to make it easy and keep it simple for the consumer was reiterated many times.
To that end, Motorola and Google are working together to create new products that merge consumer usage and innovation. Their Droid Bionic - coming in Q2 - signals "the end of waiting" while using a mobile device.
And then Google unveiled its new tablet platform - Honeycomb - which will be available on the new Motorola Xoom tablet. As they explained, "It multitasks so you don't have to."
Verizon's COO Lowell McAdam and CEO Ivan Seidenberg explained that while they're essentially an engineering company, the goal is to integrate all the great content that companies like Time Warner creates into a fast, simple, and seamless experience for the consumer.
So for the largest convention in North America (more than 126,000 in attendance with 25,000+ from around the globe), the techie side of CES may have been overshadowed by the consumer who is driving much of this change. Sadly, radio does not have a starring role or even a cameo (outside of perhaps HD Radio) at this show. But the notion that broadcast owners and content creators should be focusing on consumer needs and desires was not lost on me.
The "Have it our way" attitude of days gone is not in-synch with the demands of consumers today. As Bewkes noted during his segment, the audience who subscribes to cable, satellite TV, or even a magazine ought to be able to enjoy that content on demand, and on any device or gadget he desires. Period.
The "customer as king" theme carried over in a late morning session called "iPad-Tablet-Smartphone Advertising," as the panel struggled to define why tablets are different from mobile phones. And Cameron Friedlander from Designkitchen reminded everyone that at CES last year, "we were all talking about netbooks." Today, it's tablets, and once again, the consumer is dictating that changing emphasis, thanks in large part to their acceptance of Apple's iPad.
It is fast and furious in the word of consumer electronics. And the "consumer" part of that label appears to be very much in control.
We'll be back on Monday with more reports from CES, and you can follow Paul and me on Twitter. @fnjacobs and @pauljacobsmedia