A character in Tom Wolfe’s novel A Man in Full makes the following provocative argument: if changing circumstances warrant an asterisk on certain sports records (most famously Roger Maris’ 61 home runs in a 162- rather than 154-game season), should not every sports record prior to the racial integration of that sport have some sort of flag on it?
If you want to start a discussion that will be lively to the point of possible police intervention, ask a diverse group of sports fans “What sports record is most likely never to be broken?” There will always be a faction supporting (and with good arguments) Ted Williams’ 56-game major league hitting streak. It was, and remains, an amazing athletic feat, but…the point from Wolfe makes us think. It’s a matter of fact that some of those hits were against pitchers who were—literally and figuratively—not in the same league with Satchel Paige.
(Credit where credit is due: I picked Williams’ record as an example, because the outstanding abilities of the Negro Leagues stars go unquestioned today—a point made by none other than the Splendid Splinter himself in his Hall of Fame induction speech, in which he argued for their inclusion in Cooperstown.)
OK, what does this have to do with the latest electronic gadgetry? In a previous post, I promised “we’re going to take advantage of hindsight, and see how well previous CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards winners fared in the real world.”
Now, I’m not an expert in many of the CES categories, so there could be, totally unbeknownst to me, complete upheaval in the world of, say Home Audio/Video Components. But I figured I could count on at least one “gimme” in the hits category, just by looking for whatever award was given to the product that all but created the modern tablet computer market: the Apple iPad.
In checking the previous award winners, I found that in 2009, a number of the winners had the following qualification in their entries: “This honoree is not exhibiting at the 2009 International CES.” This qualification does not appear in the 2010 and subsequent lists…which goes a long way to explaining why, when the Tablets, EReaders & Netbooks category finally makes its appearance in 2012, the list consists of two products from Sony, and 5 from Samsung. (The latter is especially ironic in light of the ongoing patent dispute between Samsung and Apple, which, for whatever reasons, does not choose to exhibit at CES. Literally, you come up empty searching for the word “Apple” on the CES site.)
So, bottom line: is it a good thing to win a CES Award? Yes, obviously (particularly for young, upcoming, innovative firms and products.) If you are a consumer, or tech investor, is a win at CES the only datum you need consider in your decision as to where your money goes? No—because these are currently awards for Best in Show, not Best in Industry.
And we close by looping back to our sports analogy: British soccer fan, on the World Series: “When we host the World Cup, at least we go to the trouble of inviting the world.–Greg Marus