The Upgrade

There’s Nothing New at CES 2019

Welcome to the off year

Lance Ulanoff
Published in
4 min readJan 10, 2019
All photos: Lance Ulanoff.

There’s a question I always ask vendors at CES, the sprawling tech expo now underway in Las Vegas: Is this new?

Increasingly, the answer is no. The product has been shipping, in some form or other, for a few months or even years. I’ve long ago given up any hope of spotting a unicorn here — the life-changing product everyone will be talking about. The big companies are now focused on introducing initiatives and projects that will help define future products instead of actual products themselves.

CES 2019 is like an entertaining Broadway musical that lacks a hit song.

Still, I can usually count on smaller discoveries — a handful of products that everyone agrees were the most important introductions of the week. But even that consensus is hard to find this year. CES 2019 is like an entertaining Broadway musical that lacks a hit song. I can’t think of a single gadget anyone has talked about for more than a few hours before moving onto the next thing.

What we have here is CES in an off year. In Intel’s “tick-tock” development model, this would be known as a tock year. A bigger year, a “tick,” introduces fundamental processor changes while the “tock” year sees only the implementation of those changes.

For example, there’s that insane and adorable stuffed cat’s tail, Qoobo. After years of development, it’s finally shipping. But it’s not new!

There’s a new smart lock. And there’s another. And another. When I found the fingerprint-activated BenjiLock at one event, the inventor explained he sold his two-year-old idea to Hampton Products (after surviving Shark Tank). They’ve made the lock smaller, sleeker, and reliable, but it’s not new.

Did you hear about LG’s incredible rollable TV? Yes. Last year. The packaging is prettier, but it’s not new. Nor are the 8K TVs: They’re just bigger. Samsung has MicroLED for fully configurable displays, just like it did last year.



Lance Ulanoff

Tech expert, journalist, social media commentator, amateur cartoonist and robotics fan.