SHIFT: 5 lessons learned from CES 2008

Wow, is it actually over? The Consumer Electronics Show has pretty much wound down, and we saw plenty of cool stuff — Killer TVs, megacool camcorders, and the most expensive speakers you've ever seen. Yeah, the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show definitely had plenty of tech eye candy. But what did we learn?

Now that the dust has begun to clear, some patterns have emerged, which we've analyzed, distilled, and pondered over some crappy coffee. The result are five lessons that we've learned from the show. Click the Continue link to read what manufacturers and consumers will take away from CES 2008.

1. If you're a high-def disc format, try to be Blu-ray. If you're in the middle of a heads-up format war, you really want to be the one that a major studio says it's going with two days before the show. You definitely don't want to be the other camp, lest you be forced to hold and awkward press conference and cancel your CES party while listening to the world declare you dead. When you're Blu-ray, you get to ride the momentum of Warner Bros. asking you to the prom and then spend the rest of the year watching HD DVD players and discs migrate to the discount bins. That's the life, really.

2. Concepts gadgets are the cool kids. A 50-inch 1080p television I can buy now doesn't hold a candle to a 150-inch one that I can't. Or a TV so thin, you wouldn't notice it if it were turned sideways. Or a mobile TV platform that's not on the market yet. Rolling out concept gear — whether or not it will ever reach the market — is the way to get attention, people. Screw now, live the future.

3. Don't mess with Walt Mossberg. Even Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, can't get away with meandering answers when put in the same room with this guy. When Kamen wandered away from a question posed by Lucy Lawless in DVICE's CES panel, Mossberg was all over him, demanding that he answer Xena's question. If only the Journal had Mossberg on the political beat.

4. Image is (still) everything. Every year at CES it seems like TV technology has pretty much peaked, and every year they find some way of upping the ante. Even though the horse race over screen size has gone well past the level of absurdity (who the hell is going to buy a 150-inch plasma TV?), manufacturers dressed other specs to impress. CES '08 saw TVs with infinite contrast, ultrathin depth, and even lasers.

5. You can never have enough iPod docks. If you're already sickened by the ever-ballooning roster of cheap-ass speaker systems that pass themselves off as iPod docks, get ready to chug some Pepto Bismol. Even TV manufacturers are getting into the game; JVC showed off its first TVs with built-in iPod docks at the show. The iPod connector is rapidly becoming the equivalent of the lower-back tattoo for A/V components — something that will probably make them look very silly in a few years.