Engineers can't say it for fear of blowing their careers. Many big companies won't let their people publish anything about it. But this is what I heard at CES for 3-4 years running now...it's crescendo was last year...this year it's starting to ebb (2012).
This was discussed under the breath of more engineers, at more companies, than I can count. A good working example at the current time is the SOPA initiative in Congress at Press Time. Your engineers, programmers, and other techs beg the public to stand up for their freedoms online. SOPA is a good example of this being a problem at 2012 press time.
If you can't beat the Apple Infrastructure pay for it. Apple didn't even show up to CES again. As Bloomberg put it, "The 10,000 lb elephant not in the room". They don't really want anyone else's input, nor do they wish to advertise like everyone else. They control their content, and your experience. This is how every provider could move, and they are doing so under the guise of the "User Experience".
As it goes, shortcuts, and other internally programmed systems provided by your cellphone, television, or computer manufacturer are reducing the usage of search engines, and the internet. Use of the smartphone application is now the standard, rather than going to the Google website to find information. As phones replace real computers, the ability to create the content is being boxed by these applications too. SOPA might put all that at risk for individual companies, and the big boys are already set up to capitalize on it.
Research and Investment is Way Down, but the big companies are rich!
I heard more American engineers talk about "not finding that big thing" than anything else these last two years. This statement was followed directly with a question as to why. The responses ranged, but a few distinct answers emerged.
1. The tax code doesn't allow you to write off Research and Development anymore. Profits can be spent on Research in this country if they are done as a part of operations. So this was how much of the R&D was completed in this country until 2 years ago.
2. The last 2 years recession has allowed the larger stable companies to make profits and crush those that were not ready for the turmoil. This left curtailed operations or bankruptcy for the weak, and minor adjustments for the strong through belt tightening, reducing the research departments and honing the sales teams first. Since the products from last year have less competition from new startups, there is less reason to invent in several of the industry markets.
What makes me happy to see at the end of the 2012 CES is that the really big companies are starting to loose good R&D to the next level of manufacturers again. The Intels, Broadcoms, Marvells, etc. are showing up with really nice new boards, chips, and designs with new extreme tolerances.
Automotive Industry knows they are Consumer Electronics NOW!
It's 2012, the 09, 10, and 11 shows grew every year. The sales teams are back on the floor, the booths are back to their pre recession elegance, and the toys in them are getting smaller or you can drive them. The automotive industry can no longer ignore that computers are interfacing with the user experience of driving. But to see a car driving autonomously inside the Intel booth, every luxury car manufacturer in attendance, and the automotive electronics section creeping into every corner of the show: yet another set of technologies are going through the painful convergence process.
I saw many foreign engineers chuckle through this discussion, and we'll call that this year's funny.
Some Set Top Boxes Don't Have Keyboards.
I wrote that line in 2011, I think it still stands true. Looking at the sneak previews of Windows 8, Verizon phones, HTC phones, and the remainder of new interfaces, it seems that the interface is being driven toward easy, and away from powerful. The CE industry understands their customer, and that means the system designers are choosing ease and usefulness for the uninitiated over power to do more things.
These design decisions fundamentally limit the number of places most folks will go online with some of these new devices, and allows the corporations who build the interface to really dictate the experience. Without a keyboard, or adequate input interface, these systems are ending up being glorified cable boxes, with a lot of links. If this is where the industry is moving, it will further the problem of literacy and dependence. In 2012, we finally saw a large number of the carriers acknowledge that there are different types of users for every one of their devices. Some are starting to offer peripherals that emulate the whole function of the computer at least...
The 2009 Electronics Efficiency Laws Never Passed.
The US Government, along with the governments of the world, seriously looked at efficiency laws for most consumer electronics. This would have limited the amount of electricity any type of item could consume, and thereby make the engineers work harder to do more within the limits. The 2009 and 2010 CES shows saw many of the early attempts by engineers to attain those standards. In 2011 those displays were gone, replaced by the fastest, shiniest, etc. yet again. The 2012 model year added more saver switches, and controls in my opinion as automation of what is actually running is all that is left if the TV is a power hog. The government could have followed through with something reasonable, but instead, passed other things like the end of light bulbs...