LAS VEGAS—Yes, it's CES 2016 week, starting Jan. 6 (Jan. 5 for analysts and journalists) and continuing through Jan. 9. Just don't call it the Consumer Electronics Show, the International CES or anything else that isn't "CES 2016" because that's now the official name and the only one that will perk up ears of official people here in the casino capital of North America.
Over time, most trade events get somewhat routine and a bit musty, with the same big companies dominating them. However, IT is an ever-evolving, creative sector and companies still aim their best devices at previews and launches at CES—the 49th since its debut in New York City in 1967 and always the first major show of the calendar year. It seems, too, that at just about every CES, we see a bright new startup introduce an interesting new product.
As a result, the event has remained a pretty accurate predictor of trends in consumer tech for at least the coming year ahead, and sometimes for a couple of years ahead. That's why the event maintains vitality and why the media stays interested enough to travel from all over the globe.
How Enterprise IT Learns From Consumer IT
Because tech in general has become so user-driven—thanks to zillions of new handheld devices and cloud services—it has required better and more user-friendly interfaces to go with them. Enterprise hasn't missed this one bit; arguably, most of the best innovations in the last 10 years or so in the IT sector have originated on the consumer side.
Of course, a high number of those new IT inventions won't apply directly to business. For every smart bra on display at the conference, for example, attendees will see dozens of devices that can be used to make business faster and more efficient for a large number of people.
Products and services such as the iPhone, social networks, personal cloud storage, flying drones, automated cars, home tech and security services and numerous others already have caught the attention of enterprises. The smart companies have seen what works in the consumer sector and applied many of those principles to their corporate networks.
Smart companies now find a way to allow their employees to use their own cloud services (Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Twitter and so on) safely within the scope of the corporate network to augment productivity. Can't be done safely? Think again. Read the pages of eWEEK on a regular basis, and you'll see content and data management companies that can soothe the headaches of IT security and networking staff who worry regularly about the leakage of corporate data through unofficial channels.
Those channels now can be controlled, and, thanks to better usability via more efficient user interfaces for employees, they don't turn users off the way they used to a few years ago. Virtually all of this innovation has come out of the consumer IT world—namely, from commercial application developers.
IT Innovation Moves at Warp Speed
For example, just a couple of years ago at CES, dual-identity (dual-SIM) smartphones were on the horizon with software from companies such as VMware and Red Bend, which signed OEM agreements in 2012 with smartphone manufacturers to create these devices using most popular models. Corporations loved the idea at the outset. Users braced for the complexity it was poised to cause.
But where are they now? Three years later, that idea is for niches only. IT innovation moves at warp speed. Better content management software already inside iOS and Android phones has superceded those projects, enabling the safety of specific types of files as needed for corporate security. Better-secured cloud storage also has satisfied a lot of the corporate demands in this area.
This week, we'll see plenty of news from the usual CES suspects, such as handheld device makers, drone manufacturers, carmakers, wearable device developers and virtual reality companies, such as Facebook's Oculus.
We can also expect to unearth some surprising new IT gems, as the show did in past years with the CD player (1981), HD television (1998), the Xbox (2001), IP television (2005) and Ford's connected cars (2011).
What will we learn in 2016? Stay tuned.