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Out-There CES Promises Will Take Years to Reach Reality

Latest Consumer Technology Products On Display At CES 2016Latest Consumer Technology Products On Display At CES 2016
IBM Chairman, chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty at CES 2016.Ethan Miller Getty Images

As I prepare to leave Las Vegas, where the CES technology trade show is happening this week, here are some quick thoughts on what I saw and, more importantly, heard while I was here.

Netflix’s recent announcement that its service is now available in 190 countries is significant. International expansion has long been a rights, political, and bandwidth issue for Netflix—not a technological one. Already buoyant shares of Netflix bounced on the news, reflecting the optimism that this Silicon Valley innovator is a world beater.

Speaking of Silicon Valley innovation, I had an illuminating conversation with a company that counsels Fortune 500 organizations on transforming themselves into digital-ready operations. Its old-line clients have three general thoughts about the companies that are leading technological and business-model advances. First, they don’t understand how they achieve their success. Second, these older companies fear they can’t compete with the upstarts for talent. Third, they struggle to grasp the culture of Silicon Valley leaders, knowing that eventually they’ll have to replicate their untraditional ways.

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I had a fascinating conversation with an old-line company with deep technological roots that’s hoping to come out in 2016 with a breakthrough product it has been working on for years. The news isn’t ready for prime time, and I only received a snippet, with a promise of more if all goes well. But it’s a good reminder that Silicon Valley hasn’t cornered the market on original thinking.

 

 

The headline items at CES—drones, autonomous cars, virtual reality, big data—likely will remain just that, headlines, for some time to come. These are out-there technologies that absolutely are on their way, but not just yet. These trends point to where things are going. Drones are a metaphor for our increasingly observed lives. Self-driving vehicles represent the relentless march of roboticization. Virtual reality is a new entertainment and information option, akin to the rise of 3D glasses at the movies. Big data is powerful, but efforts to bring data to everyday users will be the near-term benefit.

That’s enough of future thinking for now. Time to get back to reality.