Straight from the CES floor

by Reads (3,766)

While Brighthand’s editor-in-chief, Ed Hardy, is en route to Las Vegas for this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, I’m stuck here in our downtown Atlanta office, holding down the fort and updating the site.

Do I sound a bit envious? Well, I am. I’m missing what should be an exciting show, filled with cool devices and gadgets (read all about it in our CES Preview). And I’m missing the energy of the showroom floor and the allure of the Vegas strip. Guess I’ll just have to enjoy it vicariously through Ed’s words and pictures. Speaking of which, Ed will be bringing us up-to-the-minute reports (and, yes, plenty of pictures) straight from the show. So stop by all this week, and weekend, for Ed’s updates.

But there’s yet another reason I wish I was in Las Vegas. You see, CES had a lot to do with some important lessons I learned in 2001.

For instance, it was two years ago, at CES 2001, that I first met Brad Nolan, CEO of UR There, makers of the @migo Pocket PC (read my interview at CES with Mr. Nolan). At the time, Pocket PC was barely 9 months old, and UR There appeared to be an interesting new player with a unique new device. And I was a novice writer with no background in journalism, covering the show for Brighthand.

We all know the story from there. Production problems, lies about shipping dates, more production problems, more lies. Eventually UR There withered away like a dying rose; a rose that had never grown past the bud stage.

But that’s just UR There’s story.

The whole UR There fiasco also left a bad taste in my mouth. For one thing, early on I wrote a favorable review of the @migo (and a profile of Brad Nolan) for Pen Computing magazine, mainly based on a pre-production unit I received from UR There. Mr. Nolan was thrilled with the coverage, both in Pen Computing and on Brighthand, and placed an order for thousands of dollars of advertising on Brighthand (you may have seen the banner ads back in early 2001). However, it soon became apparent that the device had some obvious problems, problems that I downplayed (and even overlooked) in my review. I was assured by Mr. Nolan that the problems would be fixed in the production units, and that they would ship on time. They weren’t, and they didn’t, and I began to seriously regret the positive coverage I gave to the @migo.

I quickly fessed up to Brighthand readers about the @migo and promised myself that I would never review a pre-production device in the future. I also decided to separate the editorial aspects of Brighthand from the advertising, hiring an advertising firm to handle it, so that there would be no chance of influencing our coverage. I also promised myself that I would maintain a professional distance with handheld manufacturers, and always remember that I am here for the readers of Brighthand, not the companies. Lessons learned.

(Note: Mr. Nolan has quietly resurrected himself as a Tablet PC reseller, while the advertising invoice to Brighthand remains unpaid.)

But that was only part of my education.

Following CES 2001, I wrote the now infamous (at least among Pocket PC enthusiasts) editorial My Palm Epiphany. It was intended to be an article on how, after attending then Palm CEO Carl Yankowski’s keynote speech and talking with several folks from Palm, I finally understood its “philosophy” and why millions of consumers were buying Palm handhelds. Little did I realize that Brighthand’s large Pocket PC audience would take my comments at a slap at Pocket PC and label me a traitor.

While it’s true that Brighthand’s coverage up to that point had been skewed towards Pocket PC, I always considered myself to be a handheld enthusiast, with no affliation to a particular platform. (I simply felt that that was your decision.) But the backlash was more than I could have ever expected. It stung, and to this day I continue to be ostracized by many in the Pocket PC community. But I’ve learned to deal with it.

So, I credit CES with planting the seed for a couple of major lessons I learned in 2001. First, I learned to believe none of what I hear, and half of what I see. Companies are trying to make money, and to make money they must sell product. Some, though by no means all, will stretch the truth when dealing with consumers. That’s why at Brighthand we’re committed to being hands-on and seeing for ourselves. Second, if you’re going to take a public position on anything, you can be assured that you’ll take some heat. Rarely is there a circumstance where 100% of the people agree with you. It took a while for me to understand that (and develop some thick skin in the process) and understand my vulnerability as a semi-public person.

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