The Biggest Tech Show in the World Is Hopelessly Retrograde

Maya Kosoff, Vanity Fair:

The stagnation goes beyond C.E.S.’s scant diversity and casual sexism, extending to the products themselves, which feel like rehashed versions of the same technologies, packaged and presented in only slightly new ways. Year after year, the show produces more of the same from headlining companies: Internet-connected refrigerators (which have been around since 1998 but have failed to take off, despite their persistent presence on showroom floors); self-driving cars; and virtual- and augmented-reality technology. It’s telling that the most interesting thing that has happened so far this year was the show’s complete loss of power on Wednesday, which offered a brief, terrifying preview of the sort of Stone Age hysteria we can expect if the Internet of Things ever takes down the power grid.

Ben Bajarin published a decent piece today about Apple’s fading influence at CES. He has theories on why that may be, like Amazon’s Alexa devices dominating the smart speaker space, and a more mature consumer electronics market. But I have another theory: maybe CES is full of companies trying to carve their own little space with expensive gadgets that don’t work well and, ultimately, are of little relevance to what consumers will actually want or buy. Sure, there were plenty of products shown that work with Apple’s ecosystem — mostly HomeKit — but so much of what is shown at CES is just gadgetry for the sake of gadgetry. Does it matter how much Apple’s influence is felt at a showcase of stuff that’s mostly irrelevant?