Taking stock of the world of tech!

It is that time of the year again!!

If you are a tech-lover (aka geek) then CES is almost like Christmas. Over the next few days, we will get a chance to witness some of the latest innovations from the ever-growing consumer electronics industry. Even though many of the big-guns such as Apple, Google and Microsoft now present their cutting-edge innovations at their own events, CES still makes the entire tech industry sit up and take notice of the undercurrents of innovation from different quarters.

As excited as I am about CES, this post is actually not about CES itself. I want to talk about what CES represents, namely the semiconductor and consumer electronics industry. In times of cut-to-the-bone recession, this industry has grown from strength to strength to emerge as the most vibrant, colorful and happening confluence of people and ideas in the world. The finance guys caused the economic woes, the marketing guys are becoming feeders rather than players and traditional fat guys such as iron and steel are bleeding money. In a depressing world with Euro Crises and American stagnancy, the electronics dudes periodically outshine themselves!

How did that happen? How did a company of self-appreciating geeks become the most valued company in the world? How did a smartphone redefine the social underpinnings of our life and times?

The answer is absurdly simple. Innovation. Competition. Simplicity.

As cliched as that word has come to be, Innovation is still the one thing that this industry does better than most others. But the funny thing is, the question of 'what to innovate on' itself keeps going through cycles of innovation! Hence, we have a rich spectrum of work being carried out at different strata and different boundaries of this industry. This lends to an amazing realm of products, ideas and services that literally cater to every aspect of the consumer's life! Being a part of one of the most innovative companies in the world, I must agree, its a sheer thrill to be part of this never-ending cycle of attempting crazier and crazier ideas!

Competition is the fire upon which the finest steel and success are wrought. In the tech world, competition has become (largely) synonymous with being identified by and with YOU! Unlike the big-wig banks who stole your money and then filed for bankruptcy only to be saved by YOUR money again, the tech industry is solely at the whims and moods of the consumer. Gone are the mid-90s when Microsoft ruled the roost and treated the rest of the industry as its serfdom. Today, the power-plays change in matters of months if not weeks. One bad product, one deficient design or one uninspiring idea and you are sent to the guillotine by both the critics and the end-users. Just consider the much-publicized and widely expected Windows 8 OS from Microsoft. Quite possibly the biggest gamble the company has made in a long time, Windows 8 represents a tectonic shift in the thinking process of the big firm. One that unequivocally reaffirms the orientation of the industry towards mobile computing. Despite a fluid, new touch-based interface and beautifully minimalist designs, Windows 8 did not receive great reviews from picky critics and has seen insipid response from the market. Even before the platform has been given time to establish itself, Windows 8 is being spoken in the same sentence as failure. That's how cut-throat this industry has become!

Despite the ugliness of constant law-suits and over-powerful reviewers, competition spells good-news for the consumers. With a constant overhaul of what's new and trendy every few months, the industry as a whole re-invents itself periodically. Compare this with other areas such as heavy industry or finance where change is so much harder if not impossible to bring about.

Simplicity is the greatest ideal in the world of technology. Anything that can be made simpler, MUST be made simpler. When an industry is driven by such a goal, superior products and designs are inevitable. Being a B2C industry(largely), intuitiveness becomes a paramount factor in designs. Gone are the dumbfounded days when we were forced to click a button called 'Start' and then click a button called 'Shut Down' to switch off the desktop. That was just not intuitive. Touch-based UIs have become the norm and have brought about a sense of interaction with technology that has drastically brought down the learning curve, which lends to greater participation and market. The mobile space in particular has been the trailblazer in the quest for simpler, superior experiences. Android, iOS and Windows Phone all represent different visions for simple and effective man-machine interaction. Projects such as Google Glass and Smart watches may take this intuitive interaction to whole new levels in a very short time. One can only wonder what is in stock after that!

To cut a long story short, the tech-world has a lot to offer both through amazing products and services as well as through ideals and practices. Innovation, competition, simplicity - we could do with more of these in every sphere of life. Let's take stock of this fact @ CES 2013.

[UPDATE] Nvidia announces GeForce Experience, Nvidia Grid, Tegra 4, Icera Software Defined Radio and Project Shield. wOOt wOOt! :)


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