The International CES trade show that inundated Las Vegas and dominated tech headlines last week is no longer called the Consumer Electronics Show, but it's still all about consumer technology. That said, I found plenty of lessons for enterprise networking and technology professionals sprinkled among the more than 150,000 attendees, 3,000 exhibitors, and 2 million square feet of show floor.
Here are the three most important things that jumped out me over four days of blaring sound systems, sore feet, and shrimp cocktail:
Lesson Number 1: Size Matters.
The 2014 CES was all about really, really big screens. We're talking television sets the size of Jumbotrons and smartphones the size of tablets.
The giant TVs were all running at 4K or Ultra HD resolutions that demand huge amount of bandwidth but display stunning levels of detail, even when you get right up close to the screen. While they may not be an immediate hit with price-conscious consumers, you can be sure that they're raising the bar on what employees expect from the displays they use in the workplace. Even as workers increasingly rely on tablets and super-portable Ultrabooks with relatively small screens, when they sit down and plug in at the office, they're increasingly going to demand big-screen, high-resolution monitors on their desktops.
In the world of portable devices, it seems increasingly clear that small-screen smarpthones are going the way of flip phones. There were plenty of companies showing models with 6-inch screens, and no one was making fun of their comically large dimensions. Samsung even showed its Galaxy Note Pro -- a tablet with a whoppping 12.2-inch, 4-megapixel display.
Lesson Number 2: Wearable computing will change everything.
Sure, the influx of wearable computing devices has so far been more hype than happening, more promise than performance. Most of the devices now on the market seem more proof of concept than polished product. And frankly, most of the new offerings I saw at the show didn't change that assessment. And yet, the sheer numbers of new devices -- and the intense interest in the devices by the attendees -- helped convince me that we're seeing the beginnings of a fundamental new category of products.
As that market matures and truly useful devices become available, they're going to change the way we relate to computing yet again, and enterprise IT will have to adjust. We've still got a little time... Google Glass isn't the answer, the Pebble and Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch are too ugly to take seriously (even the new Pebble Steel), and Apple's Smartwatch is still only a rumor. But in the next year or two, wearable devices will be finding their way into enterprise networks just like smartphones did, and IT had better be ready.
Lesson Number 3: Connectivity is everything.
Buying bigger devices is only half of the equation. The continued increase in the size, number, types, and data requirements of these new devices will continue to put unprecendented pressure on connectivity and bandwidth. That's true in the home, for mobile devcies in the field, and in enterprise offices and data centers.
Keeping all those devices humming and connecting without delays is going to be a key challenge for many companies in the coming years. Enterprises may find them spending big dollars to boost their available connectivity solutions, both wired and wireless, to let employees and customers access and create the HD content that looks so darn good on all those giant screens.
Vendors at all levels of the communications stack are pushing a wide variety of technologies to help make that happen, and it's not yet clear which ones will predominate. But it's a safe bet that what enterprises have in place now is not going to be good enough going forward.