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CES 2019: News from Media Day

Press Events Set the Tone for the Last Vegas Show

The days preceding CES always offer a few announcements and the first few press conferences. In today’s Daily Insight, we’ll look at the big stories ahead of the show’s opening.

The first official event is CES Unveiled, where a number of companies showcase their latest products to media and analysts. Historically this has been a venue where established companies mingle with start-ups and smaller outfits, revealing a mixed bag of product updates and tech curiosities.

Although it’s dangerous to draw conclusions at this early stage, we came away from yesterday’s press event feeling disappointed that we hadn’t really seen much new. There were plenty of products and concepts we had picked up in previous years, but not a lot that grabbed our attention. It was also striking that there were fewer big brands participating, and the general buzz at the event was more muted than usual.

Some of the trends that we identified in our CES curtain-raiser started to manifest, such as 5G fixed wireless solutions — a gateway from D-Link was a highlight — and numerous devices, particularly for the smart home, equipped with voice assistants.

However, based on this very early window into what might emerge once the show officially starts, we fear that a possible outcome could be that innovation has slowed. Our fears of a “peak smart home” moment appear well-founded as we see even more products entering very crowded segments: there were at least three new smart door bells at the event!

It’s possible that CES 2019 may end up being more about underlying technologies such as artificial intelligence and 5G rather than individual new devices or products. We reserve judgement at this stage, and will report tomorrow on the major news from a series of big-name press conferences including HTC, Intel, LG, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sony and TCL.

Samsung Smart TVs to Offer Apple iTunes Films and TV Shows

This is a very smart move by Samsung and Apple that overcomes any short-term concerns about teaming up with a rival. The move will give Apple access to a huge number of smart TVs, which will be a valuable asset as it expands access to content beyond its own devices and grow its services business.

In return, Samsung will be able to tap into a premium content platform on an exclusive basis. This is a major step in a strategy that we’ve pointed to in the past. This approach would seek to establish Samsung as a best-in-class integrator of third-party services by using the combined scale of its consumer electronics portfolio. It maximizes Samsung’s core competitive advantage rather than going head to head with companies such as Apple, Amazon and Netflix and investing in costly content.

Nvidia Puts Graphics in the Spotlight

Nvidia used its press conference at the event to focus exclusively on gaming, omitting automotive and robotic announcements, in contrast to recent CES keynote presentations, although we expect more news about those areas later in the week.

This was a calculated decision by Nvidia. It allowed the company to tell a compelling story about its role in driving the future of graphics based on hybrid rendering, encompassing real-time ray tracing and artificial intelligence. Its Turing architecture is the enabler for this vision and Nvidia presented some highly persuasive demonstrations to highlight the significance of steps taken with Turing.

The announcements will resonate with gamers, a significant step given that the gaming segment accounted for 55 percent of revenue in its fiscal 3Q19 (see Instant Insight: Nvidia Results, Fiscal 3Q19). Moreover, a build-up of inventory in the same quarter led to an unusually challenging period for Nvidia. The launch of its RTX 2060 graphics processing units based on Turing and priced keenly at $349 with headline-game bundles should prove a reassuring message for investors and a popular announcement for its gamer devotees.

Those expecting a glimpse into an autonomous driving and robotic future will have been disappointed, but Nvidia has chosen to focus on its core business before revealing more future-looking announcements later in the week.

A Lacklustre Start for Wearables, VR and AR

CES Unveiled didn’t offer any new breakthroughs in the areas of wearables and virtual and augmented reality.

Despite some smart clothing companies exhibiting, none announced significant improvements on the products we identified over four years ago. After a turbulent couple of years, wearables and smart device company Withings made a return to CES with a refreshed range of products that it hopes will help it reach its ambitious goal of establishing itself as the leading digital health company.

The hype for virtual and augmented reality continues to subside, with a smaller number of companies showcasing their technology than in previous years.