Meet the Great Tech Busts of CES

Originally published January 7, 2013

By Ian Sherr

LAS VEGAS–The high-definition DVD, the Palm Pre and Lady Gaga’s Polaroid Glasses have one thing in common: They launched at the Consumer Electronics Show to much fanfare, only to disappear from sight or languish as failures on store shelves.

The annual trade show, which runs through this week, is the place where many awe-inspiring technologies have launched. The conference has been held for more than three decades and attracts more than 150,000 attendees to its nearly 2 million net square feet of convention facilities each January.

Some products have gone on to change the world. Others have fallen flat.

What has changed, convention goers say, is that the spectacle has gotten bigger, pushing technologies that might be works-in-progress to seem more ready for store shelves than they are, while others never should have been.

The products being shown should be coming out in the next 12 months,” said Jon Abt, the 44-year-old co-president of closely held Abt Electronics in Chicago. “That’s what they initially intended, but things have changed a bit.”

In the past three decades he has been attending, since he was a pre-teenager walking alongside his father, he has watched as numerous concept technologies have fallen flat, from Motorola’s OJO video phone, a precursor to Apple Inc.’s iPhone with FaceTime video chatting, to 150-inch televisions, which have yet to hit the consumer market.

“Everyone wants to have bragging rights—I was the first, I have the biggest,” he added. “These products take years to perfect and refine, and to manufacture profitably.”



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(Published January 7, 2013, in The Wall Street Journal.)