Once again, the Las Vegas Convention Center plays host to the world’s largest consumer technology show – CES. The exhibits, technology and people at the show all make headline news, with the conference being considered the most important date in the consumer technology calendar.
This year is as busy as ever, with new gadgets and technologies demonstrating the path that many big tech companies plan to take in the coming years. There are always a few wacky designs intended just to make headlines, but it is generally agreed that the tech on show at the conference will be a good sign of what we can expect to see in our hands, our homes and our workplaces in the next few years.
As well as gadgets and technology, it is also a chance for many technology companies to make a statement of intent about their businesses, what direction they are heading in, and what their priorities are.
Policy and priorities
One of the biggest stories of this year’s CES is the appearance of Jane Horvath, Apple’s senior director for global privacy. On the face of it, that shouldn’t be a big story: an executive for one of the world’s largest technology companies appears at a technology conference. However, it’s more important when you consider that Apple has not sent a representative to the show for 28 years – historically deciding instead to bypass the show and announce products on its own terms, in its own theatres.
But the company decided that one of its features was worth shouting about at CES: privacy. It has, for several years now, made a big deal of its claims about superior privacy compared to other technology giants such as Facebook and Google. It’s clear why this is possible – Apple primarily makes its money from the sale of hardware, rather than from the exploitation of data for advertising – which is Google and Facebook’s business model.
As Engadget reports, privacy is a big deal for Apple: “CEO Tim Cook has been vocal about it and his company has both introduced new privacy features and trolled its competitors.”
Apple isn’t the only one pursuing this strategy. Twitter also took the chance to announce some changes, saying that it will roll out the ability for users to limit who can reply to their tweets, according to The Verge.
Twitter’s director of product management, Suzanne Xie, said that Twitter is “adding a new setting for “conversation participants” right on the compose screen. It has four options: “Global, Group, Panel, and Statement.” Global lets anybody reply, Group is for people you follow and mention, Panel is people you specifically mention in the tweet, and Statement simply allows you to post a tweet and receive no replies,” the Verge wrote.
The key thing is – companies obviously consider CES a place – or perhaps the place – to share its message.
It’s not just companies making big announcements that aren’t directly about technology and gadgets. Regulators and governments like to use CES to make their intentions and policy directions clear, too. Axios, for example, reports that U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced updated federal guidelines for automated vehicles, an attempt to tame conflicting regulatory approaches across some 38 federal departments and related agencies.
Technology on show
Autonomous cars were big news at the show, with Amazon unveiling “its plan to be a major player in self-driving vehicle technology, connected cars, electric vehicles and management of the torrents of data generated by automakers and drivers”, according to Reuters.
“We really are extending ourselves more and more out in the ecosystem from manufacturing to connected car,” Jon Allen, head of professional services in Amazon Web Services’ automotive practice, told Reuters. “The takeaway message on this is if you go to CES this year we really are taking it as a ‘One Amazon’ view.”
Reuters also reported that chipmaking giant Qualcomm announced a computing system for autonomous vehicles “designed to handle everything from lane controls to full self-driving that it aims to have on the road by 2023” – another big piece of news in the automotive world.
There was some more traditional fare, too. Televisions still bring in big crowds, with the BBC reporting that Samsung has claimed to “have “virtually eliminated” the frame around its latest 8K TV”. According to the BBC, Samsung has said its Q950’s display has the highest screen-to-body ratio of any television on the market, giving it “extra bragging rights at a time when it has taken a strong lead against its nearest competitor, LG, in terms of market share”.
And Lenovo unveiled the world’s first 5G laptop, with its Yoga 5G “becoming the first PC to be able to connect to 5G networks”, per Techradar.