Bit of a strange piece, based on disappointment rather than reflective realisation of maybe this is a turning point. Two big shows in the same week; the Consumer Electronics Show, CES, in Las Vegas and MacWorld in San Francisco should have brought something revolutionary to the market, and yet if there was something I couldn’t see it. What I could see was evolutionary, take any of the technologies from Blu-ray to media centres, WiFi to WiMax and the products were there in abundance, from which I take the message that the era of the digital lifestyle has well and truly arrived, and the crossover between technology vendors and consumer vendors is now a fact of life.
From Cisco to HP, Yahoo to Google, they are all there at CES showing how their core technology is reapplied to the consumer digital lifestyle. You can get a pretty good run down on exactly what products were on show at http://ces.cnet.com/ but more interesting is a live blog reporting minute by minute in real time what Steve Ballmer had to say in his first keynote replacing the traditional address from Bill Gates. Do look for the place in which he stated “The fact of the matter is, this is not a downturn, this is a bit of a reset”

So what about MacWorld? Well again the usual keynote speaker in the form of Steve Jobs wasn’t there, though the Mac fans were there in huge numbers, and most surprising of all this is the last MacWorld that Apple will be doing. The result in the eyes of the press was a huge nothing to say, and even that has been considered an insulting close to an event loyally attended by Mac fans. So we enter 2009 with a sense that the product revolution is now in an evolutionary stage and that’s when I started to think that the real focus has shifted from the product to the smart services that capitalise on the platforms that all these products provide.
For thought provoking challenge of what can an enterprise can do in the market ‘reset’ as Steve Ballmer calls it, try reading what the Economist had to say in the same week about Rolls Royce and its model for smart services in the aircraft engine business. This is a remarkable story around how in real time, with aircraft in the air, Rolls Royce is monitoring and deciding on service requirements etc. Now let’s look back at the CES and what doesn’t make the product centric headlines because it the less tangible service.
For a start there is Cisco entering a whole new market by providing a hosting service called Eos for various forms of content that smaller companies want to resell and lack the skill money etc to set up their own online service. There are two ways of looking at this, the products Cisco sells through Linksys are creating a market for more media consumption, or to sell the Cisco products like their new Media Hub there must be content!
Then there is the teaming up of Yahoo with LG, Samsung etc to offer a new Internet TV experience around services to make good use of the digital switch over in the USA. The trick is Yahoo adding a widget to the TV sets so that they will work with the Yahoo service, and this is claimed to create a whole new market for services consumption in the home. So it seems that the credit crunch meets a shift in the market to move from selling a product once at an every decreasing price and margin towards a continuous services revenue model obtained from the product being in place.
Sometimes its what you don’t see at a trade show that is as revealing as what you do see, so is this the lesson from CES and MacWorld, and is this the start of 2009 being a sea change in markets? What did you make of it?