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I'm sure you've heard the great marketing catchphrase that "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." Well, this week it is the Consumer Electronics Show, better known by its initials, CES. About 4,000 exhibitors are hoping that what happens in Vegas gets out of Vegas and results in business. Cadence is one of them, but by the time you read this post, the show will be almost over so too late to visit us.
Apple famously doesn't go to CES despite being one of the biggest consumer electronics companies there is. But this year they decided to tweak the tail of all the companies like Google and Facebook that are having issues with security breaches and mistrust about what they do with all our data. Opposite the convention center, they have a building-sized ad that "What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone."
Of course, that's not entirely true since Apple has huge datacenters and knows a lot about you. However, their business model is mostly based on selling you phones (and other hardware) and providing other services like Apple Music or Apple Cloud for storage. In fact, despite misunderstanding by many people, neither Google's nor Facebook's business model is based on selling data about you. It is too valuable for that, they keep it to themselves. They will target ads for clients, using that data, but they won't give them the raw data. But given that everyone seems to think they do, Apple's ad is clever (and memorable).
The two things I saw everywhere were AI and 5G. Neural networks have advanced a lot in the last 5 years and anything that approaches one is billed as AI. It is a couple of initials that the public knows. But it is not much more than those "new" and "improved" flashes on packages in the supermarket. Chris Rowen likes to say that an AI startup is any startup since 2016, since you need to have an AI angle to get funded. Like ten years ago you needed a Chinese or India engineering strategy for any startup that needed a lot of development.
In my predictions for the year, just a couple of days ago, I said that I expected a lot of dubious marketing of 5G to occur. Well, I didn't have long to wait. Today, AT&T updated their version of Android to show 5G instead of LTE on the little area at the top of the screen. When challenged they said that they would call true 5G, including the mmWave band, 5G+. Most people reading this blog have some idea about the underlying technology, but the general public has no idea. Just that 5G sounds better than 4G, right? T-mobile immediately posted a video of someone putting a Post-it note on a phone to emphasize that was all AT&T was doing.
I happened to run into Dave DeMaria at CES. He was my boss for a time at Cadence last time around and is now head of corporate marketing at Synopsys. As everyone does, he asked me if I'd seen anything really interesting. You don't see a lot of unexpected stuff at CES, the basic themes are obvious before the show starts. But I actually had an answer for him. "Bell-Uber". You have probably heard of Bell but not in a consumer electronics context. The helicopter Bell, not the old phone system Bell. They were the first company to get airworthiness certification for a helicopter, and have been building them ever since. But, as I said, hardly a consumer electronics product.
Bell showed helicopter aimed at the air-taxi market. I heard one of their executives point out that since it has six ducted fans instead of one big rotor, one of them can fail without it being a catastrophe. Further, since they are electric motors, that is another single point of failure removed. In a normal helicopter, if the engine fails then the pilot has to execute a very complex procedure to get down safely. You can see the helicopter in the photo above, but since it is colored a gloss black it is not that easy to work out. The top of the picture is one of the six ducted fans, that both make it efficient and make it safer around people entering and exiting. The center of the picture is the cabin.
Bell is not an expert on getting vehicles to where people need them, but Uber is. So the partnership is interesting. "The era of a hailable air-taxi is closer than you think." Well, we will see, but it seemed closer than I had imagined. Obviously, with a helicopter, you can't fly to most destinations directly since there is nowhere to take off and land. My house is on a pedestrian walkway so you can't even drive to it (I have to guess where the mapping software that Lyft use is going to tell them to go, it seems to change).
If you want to get from a place in San Francisco to a place in Silicon Valley then you will be able, in this future world being presented, get an Uber to somewhere a helicopter can land, bypass all the congestion on 101, land near your destination, and get another Uber to the front door.
I am not sure if you can read anything into it, like tea leaves, but the Wednesday keynote was by Lisa Su of AMD. Ever since I've been attending CES, one of the keynotes has been by Intel. I will cover Lisa's keynote tomorrow. But, as a teaser, I'll point out that Lisa talked a lot about actual chips. Intel tended to try and disguise the fact that they were a semiconductor company. For example, see my post from a couple of years ago Drones in the Mini-Forest: Intel's Keynote at CES.
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