Billboard tech reporter Alex Pham has tirelessly covered this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, hitting innumerable press events, product launches, keynotes, panels and parties (as well as a litany of celebrity headphone endorsements). Above, in this Google+ Hangout, Alex and fellow experts tech journalist Chris Morris ( @MorrisatLarge), technology consultant Scott Steinberg ( @AKeynoteSpeaker) of TechSavvy Global, and Ted Cohen ( @spinaltap), CEO of TAG Strategic discuss the confab's many takeaways, from in-car technology to the new invisible, non-intrusive role that tech is taking, to audio-centric advertising based on apps such as Shazam and new advertising insights based on preferences and habits. To catch up on all our CES coverage, watch the video above, and read Steinberg's wrapup below, and check out our CES 2013 Hub right here.
Musically, annual high-tech industry event the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) struck both predictable and unexpected chords. A year of incremental innovation for hardware, 2013 nonetheless promises to deliver marked gains in production, distribution and content delivery methods that may extend industry horizons by leaps and bounds.
Expanding the market pioneered by Beats by Dre, numerous musicians, from Motorhead's Lemmy to 50 Cent, lined up at the conference to piggyback on the increasingly popular celebrity-branded headphone business. A rising push towards retro-futuristic innovation was also evident throughout the broader accessory market, as exemplified by offerings like Griffin's wood-encased WoodTones headphones, Pyle's USB phonograph and ION Audio's jukebox iPhone and iPad dock. But what's potentially more telling for entertainment industry players hoping to extend their reach, whether to encompass or better leverage digital networks, is the growth and maturation of both emerging markets and content creation or sharing solutions.
As noted in our recent conversation with Gibson Guitar chairman and CEO Henry Juszkiewicz, technology looks to play a more "invisible and not intrusive" role in production going forward. Major themes for 2013 will include an array of auto-tuning instruments with direct digital output, and portable app-backed recording equipment such as IK Multimedia's suite of mobile accessories. Hoping to do for live performers what ProTools did for producers, novel new debuts such as the iRig HD digital guitar interface and LL Cool J's MyConnect Studio App aim to provide on-the-fly recording and collaboration, respectively, wherever musicians travel. Thanks to an array of new high-tech solutions from USB microphones to direct-to-digital turntables, and applications for taping or streaming music to and from mobile devices, it's now possible to capture and share studio-grade performances whenever inspiration strikes.
Myriad car manufacturers from Chrysler to GM also lined up at CES 2013 to announce partnerships with Slacker, iHeartRadio, Spotify and other streaming services, broadening the reach of digital networks. But perhaps the most telling announcement surrounding the auto industry's digitally-enhanced future at the show came from Ford, which revealed an open program for mobile app developers. Allowing enterprising creators to rethink the way in which in-car entertainment is consumed, the initiative promises to pair novel and crowdsourced designs with plug-and-play solutions for delivering premium musical content. Across the board, stereo makers such as Kenwood and Pioneer are also increasingly implementing high-tech apps and digital song delivery into new offerings, aiming to expand listeners' choice of channels.
|"Expect both options -- brute force and clever engineering -- to echo throughout the space in 2013"|
Solutions such as Pandora and eMusic, which announced that it would begin selling music to all shoppers versus its previous subscription-only model, are also looking to expand audience numbers through sheer accessibility and/or ubiquity on myriad devices. But others, including iHeartRadio, are taking a more proactive approach to extend their reach by introducing custom-tailored solutions. In the latter case, Clear Channel's Internet radio platform has already begun custom crafting apps optimized for specific hardware devices and vehicles, including safety-focused editions designed specifically for in-vehicle use. Expect both options -- brute force and clever engineering -- to echo throughout the space in 2013, as providers increasingly strive to achieve singularity and differentiation in what's quickly becoming a homogenized market.
In an unexpected move, chip maker AMD also hopes to expand horizons for music and entertainment industry providers with its 360-degree SurRound House audio technology, which product marketing director John Taylor says represents "the future of home theater and gaming." Requiring only a single PC to capitalize on, its positional audio features enable more immersive storytelling and audio cues in films and video games, amphitheater-type acoustics for videoconferencing, and symphonic music listening experiences. Currently available, the ball is now in content creators' court to tap into such solutions, however.
Advertising is also getting an upgrade in 2013, courtesy of show attendee Shazam, whose audio app recognition features can detect on-screen sounds, and are becoming growingly supported by live music or entertainment events. Audio fingerprinting provider Audible Magic likewise sees promise in the space, and has teamed with ad agencies Accelerated Media, DG Mediamind and Cheshire Duo to create apps that provide customized offers when currently-playing TV ads are detected.
Curiously, as Consumer Electronics Association chief economist Shawn Dubravac told Billboard's Alex Pham, the biggest wins for advertisers may come not in the form of sales, but serendipitous insights. With so many devices from smartphones to tablets, digital cameras, gaming consoles and TVs now connected online, it's becoming vastly simpler to track user preference and habits, and deliver customized experiences or offers to match. With an estimated 350 million IP-enabled devices expected to ship worldwide in 2013, all present growing potential to deliver content and commercial offers that resonate more strongly with listeners and viewers.
Myriad innovations from performance smartphones and tablets to alternative audio streaming solutions such as Phorus' Android-friendly AirPlay rival Play-Fi look to compete for attention going forward. Which will truly rock the market remain to be seen, but manufacturers' are clearly vying in rising numbers for 2013 to be the tipping point at which the industry finally resolves to begin going all-digital.
Bestselling futurist and professional speaker on strategy and innovation Scott Steinberg heads management consulting and market research firm TechSavvy Global. A leading global trends expert and high-tech business leader seen in 400+ outlets from CNN to NPR, you can connect with him at www.AKeynoteSpeaker.com.