Searching for the Grail

December 2011

Searching for the Grail

When it comes to innovative products, entrepreneurs have always been at the forefront.

Yet many inventors who have great ideas for new innovative products or technologies never manage to get to market.  Getting the job done is another story altogether.

Over the years, we have been involved in many business planning projects, research, attending demos or just plain reading industry related information that provides food for thought on products that make us realize that it is just a matter of “time” before the product arrives on our doorstep.  It just may not be “tomorrow.”

When we attend future oriented trade shows such as the forthcoming CES or NAB and IBC, we tend to gravitate to the outer reaches of the show floors where innovative start ups are often located due to the lower cost in the more remote areas, or on the main floor where some of the companies are now based that at one time were in the remote sections of the conference.

These are often the “holy grail” products, those that have some basis in reality for which the market sometimes is not quite ready, or the technology needs further development in order for the product to reach its intended potential, at least from a specification point of view.

Sometimes there are various market forces that need to take hold before the products can reach some form of tipping point, reach critical mass and become viable in the marketplace.

Sometimes the idea is right, but the product is just not good enough and not good enough just does not cut it with consumers.

At the forthcoming CES, we are going to be looking for some of the products and services that were part of the “future” many years ago, back at the turn of the century, some during the tech boom – and look for those that will be current products in the next 5 – 10 years, only just not yet.

Here is what we expect to see at CES and the areas of the conference that we will be exploring:

Mobile – we are still in the very early days of mobile technology, in terms of what can be done, what will be done and by whom.  While we sometimes think that everybody has a smartphone, that is not the case.  However, according to the Yankee Group “between 2010 and 2015, the global installed base of smartphones will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 33 percent. The tablet market will move even faster, achieving a CAGR of 81 percent during the same period.”  We’ll be looking for products that are for cord cutters, those that have never been corded and just products that are stand alone on mobile devices, including checking out all the new devices themselves.

Internet connected/smart TVs – the installed base of users continues to be insufficient to enable many of the innovators in the marketplace to warrant development of many types of products.  While Amazon Netflix, Pandora and a few other services are available through different branded TVs and Blu Ray players, the majority of the 17 million users that own an internet connected TV are still not accessing the range of content and web sites that are going to drive significant adoption.  Some of the delay is attributable to existing broadband infrastructure and part to the replacement cycle for the 60 – 70% of TV homes that have HDTVs.  We expect to see a wide array of new display devices of all kinds.

Connected appliances – if there ever was a grail of a product concept, it is the intelligent home and connected appliances.  This concept has been bantered around for years, for example, that our refrigerator would be internet connected such that it will track our inventory and let us know when to restock.  We have seen prototypes, but the adoption rate is going to continue to be slow – not just for the refrigerators, as those have a long replacement cycle, but for other products as well.  We expect to see more and more healthcare products that are internet connected.  For example, there are toilets in Japan that will send samples to a lab for testing, with test results transmitted via text or email.  As our boomer population continues to age, this type of technology, i.e. home health services, will be especially useful.  Energy management and security are sure to be hot topics as well.

Cloud services – cloud services are still evolving.  The recent introduction of the iCloud service from Apple will help to push this along.  Many of us continue with various Google cloud services including gmail and docs and similar services from Microsoft and others that will target small businesses and the consumer.

Automotive connectivity – in Los Angeles where I live, drivers hold their phones to their ears while driving, or check email/text messages while on the freeway.  Voice activation, on the horizon for many years, would make our roads safer.  Siri is a step in that direction and other products will soon follow, not just limited to automobiles.  I tested an IBM branded voice recognition dictating software at least 10 years ago and found it lacking.  Today’s voice activation technology is vastly improved.  The Dragon Dictate on my mobile has a fairly high accuracy rate that continues to get better.

Click and buy – EBay announced recently that they are testing technology that will enable us to purchase products we see on screen on one of our favorite TV programs.  The History Channel has partnered with FiOS to bring a similar product, now dubbed T-Commerce, to market.  This, no doubt, is a concept that has been on the drawing boards for a very long time.  It will have new meaning for product placement and is a concept whose time has come, making it ready for prime time.  This will be dependent on the TV connectivity, the right software and the content owners getting a piece of the action.

Printed, organic and flexible electronics – these types of products are getting more and more press.  We plan to pay particular attention to this at the conference.  I want my next or certainly a subsequent tablet to roll up for storage, then unroll when I need to use it.

We have come a long way in terms of innovation.  We take for granted simple apps such as status updates on airlines flights and near field communications (NFCs) for boarding, and depositing checks into our accounts by merely photographing them.

We are looking forward to next month’s CES where many of the products will be on display as they have become reality and those that are not yet quite ready for prime time.

We’ll be thinking of products of old and products for tomorrow as we report back after the conference.  In the meantime, if you have been reminded of products or services that at one time were “on the horizon” but took significant time to get to market or those that have not yet arrived, I would welcome hearing from you either via email or on Facebook or other social media.

Trends in the Marketplace

We have continued to post Trends in the Marketplace on Twitter and Facebook periodically.  Watch those spaces for key trends that are important to our readers and followers.

TV Ownership Declines for First Time in Nielsen History It has been a trend since the beginning.  Literally.  Every year, the number of TV households in the US has increased.  Until now.  According to InsideTV from Entertainment Weekly on November 30, “Nielsen’s annual “Television Audience” report that was released this week, the number of households with a TV set will decline. The rising trend of TV ownership has been leveling off in recent years, and now the number has dropped from 115.9 million homes in 2011 to an estimated 114.7 million in 2012. As TV Barn pointed out, that’s a 1 percent decline despite the number of households rising.”

TV sales for the holiday And in what may seem a contradiction to the above, TV sales are expected to be brisk this year during the holiday season.  Perhaps some of that is attributable to households buying their second and third or more flat screen.  While increasing the absolute number of TVs in the market, it may not increase the number of TV households.

We will not know until early in 2012 whether this was hype or a trend.  And we will not know how many of the sets will go to households that are corded or not.  Stay tuned.

Satellite Today reports Tablet Device Viewing Beginning to Impact Overall Viewing “The increased use of tablet devices to view content could have an impact for DTH operators, which, by and large, remain the main providers of video services across Europe. Orange says that according to this survey, “There is now evidence to suggest that tablet devices are actually cannibalizing home TV viewing and PC usage.” For example, it says in the United Kingdom 35 percent of tablet users are watching on-demand content, 40 percent are watching streaming content and 39 percent are ‘watching TV’ on their tablet.”

Track our take on Trends in the Marketplace on both Twitter and Facebook.

As for The Shindler Perspective

CES 2012 is imminent.  Marty Shindler will be moderating the lead off Super Session, Spotlight on 3D Content on day one of the conference, January 10, 2012 at 10 AM.  Execs on the panel are from 3Net, ESPN and HBO.  And did we mention that this session is free?  See you there.

We also plan to attend CNET Presents the Next Big Thing in CE later that day.

Subsequent to the last newsletter, we were asked to moderate the wrap up panel at the annual PreVis Forum from the PreVis Society.  Panelists were noted cinematographers, directors, visual effects supervisors and noted layout artists who have used previs extensively and were able to discuss the pros and cons of the technology.  PreVis has become a fundamental part of major feature films, TV shows, video games and commercials in recent years.

Our September Wall St. themed panel at the 3D Summit was well received and well attended.

The two panels at Digital Hollywood, one focusing on the Street’s take on cross platform content and the second with leading 3D execs and stereographers, were also well received.

Roberta Shindler and I wish our friends, clients and prospective clients good health, happiness and success in 2012.


For The Shindler Perspective, Inc.



Marty Shindler

Chief Executive Officer


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