There's no end to the number of products on display at CES, but after spending two days walking the whole show, a few themes became apparent. First, despite having no official presence at CES, Amazon potentially had more product exposure than any other company with its ubiquitous Amazon Echo device, which every company under the sun was desparate to prove allegiance with. Even companies that compete directly with Amazon in this market, like Samsung, have no choice but to prove through free display space that it's all about Amazon in the voice-connected arena right now. We snapped this photo of the Echo at Samsung's robotic vaccuum display, but it really could have been anywhere. From Smart Home to Smart TV to Smart Baby, Echo and the Alexa voice service it embodies was just about everywhere.
And don't get us wrong: we're big fans of Echo - just check out our review of the Echo Dot, along with the Wink Hub 2 with which it can pair, to understand why. The big question on our minds as we perused booth after booth demonstrating Alexa voice recognition, is whether consumers will embrace voice controls, and the ever-listening devices they require, throughout their homes and lives. Amazon's marketing of the Echo still strikes us as slightly strained, in the sense that it just doesn't quite know what people will use the Echo for, although there's no doubt at all that people are buying Echoes in huge numbers. And all of this calls into question whether there's room for its competitors: Samsung, Google, and Microsoft are all hoping to outdo Amazon. While their products don't have a track record to speak of, many partners were already touting compatibility with these Echo competitors, showing that Amazon would be well served by continuing to stretch the boundaries of its marketing efforts not just to consumers, but manufacturers and developers as well.
Second of all, Tesla is the new iPhone of tech. Everyone wants to show that they have made, or perhaps some day will make, a contribution to its success. As shown in the photo here, the Tesla Model S was sitting in the central showcase spot at Nvidia's sprawling but relatively-sparse pavilion. Turns out cars take up more space, and draw more curious eyes, than microchips, so we don't exactly blame Nvidia for playing the Tesla Card. The company has partnered with Tesla, an early adopter of self-driving tech, to showcase the potential future for autonomous vehicles using Nvidia's PX 2 AI platform.
Indeed, despite not spending a single cent on floor space at CES, Tesla somehow continues to get infinitely more exposure than all of its competitors combined. Perhaps most fittingly, we saw a Model X with its falcon-wing doors held proudly in the air at the huge Panasonic booth, where Panasonic was rightly taking credit for supplying the critical battery tech used by Tesla and for taking part in building its Gigafactory. This is all a bitter pill to swallow for companies trying to establish themselves as the next big thing in electric vehicles. For example, the snazzy new Faraday Future FF 91 electric SUV, shown below, was introduced to much fanfare at the show. Despite FF and its Chinese backers potentially losing their shirts, however, spending their last dollars obtaining this floor space and making sure they had some car-like object to showcase on it (two executives quit the firm the week before CES), Tesla's Model S and Model X were practically everywhere else.
Now, if Tesla's EVs and Amazon's Alexa were the accidental king and queen of the prom, drones had to be the party crashers. Drones were simply everwhere, so much so that we'd call drones the theme of the show. Flip to the next page to see why.