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CES 2012: Winners & Losers
By Swanni

Washington, D.C. (January 16, 2012) -- The Consumer Electronics Show is more than a convention. It's an opportunity for companies to position themselves as leaders in their respective categories.

And with the world's media -- and more than 150,000 attendees -- watching, there's a lot at stake.

with the 2012 CES finally coming to an end last Friday -- after four grueling days and endless exhibits and press conferences -- it's time to examine which companies emerged as the show's winners and losers.

LG's ultra-thin OLED TV.

Winner: LG

The company snagged a 'Best of Show' award from CNET for its new 55-inch OLED TV, whose amazingly thin panel (less than 0.2 inches thick) and sparkling picture wowed the attendees. But that was only half the story. LG also exhibited an impressive 84-inch 4K HDTV which purported to offer a resolution four times better than current sets. While it was difficult to truly measure that claim, the two TVs kept a steady stream of people filing through the company's exhibit area -- and kept the media busy filing stories about the company's eye-popping innovations. Overall, it was a great CES for LG.

Loser: Sony
Sony, which has lost market share over the last few years to lesser-knowns such as Vizio, tried hard to win back its reputation as a TV leader by exhibiting everything from a new 55-Inch Crystal LED HDTV to a 4K Home Theater to glasses-free 3D TVs. However, Sony had to admit that the Crystal LED was just a prototype (LG's OLED is expected at retail in the second half of the year.) and the 4K Home Theater presentation, while impressive, left few attendees gushing, which wasn't Sony hope, to be sure.

But the one thing that made Sony a clear loser was the TV that wasn't there -- an OLED set. Sony was the first in the U.S. to sell an OLED set, launching an 11-inch model a few years ago. But Sony apparently could not manufacture a larger-screen version of the new picture technology and had to abandon the business entirely. LG, however, stepped in with its 55-inch OLED (as did Samsung, which also exhibited a 55-Inch OLED), making Sony look, well, like a product innovating loser.

Winner: Apple
The company wasn't even at the show -- not officially, anyway (reports circulated of Apple exec sightings). But Apple's presence was everywhere. The company's reported plan to introduce an Apple TV in 2012 or 2013 was the talk of the show. And the set's likely features, such as voice and motion control, have already become the standard for advanced TVs. Several manufacturers introduced sets that could be controlled by using voice commands. Would they have done so if it were not for Apple?

Loser: Toshiba
Toshiba scored points by introducing a 4K HDTV which displayed an impressive picture, particularly when seen alongside a 1080p set which Toshiba helpfully (and smartly) positioned next to it. But the company made a lot of noise prior to the show for its new glasses-free 3D HDTV -- and it was met with mixed reviews from attendees and the media. I thought the 3D effects seemed a bit muted compared to a 3D presentation seen with glasses. And the picture often seemed a bit blurry.

 If Toshiba thought it would revitalize interest in 3D with the glasses-free presentation, it didn't work.

Loser: Samsung
While LG displayed its 55-inch OLED TV in the middle of its exhibit area, Samsung mysteriously tucked its 55-inch OLED edition behind a curtain with a line of people waiting to go in. The decision likely kept some people from taking a good look and possibly kept buzz down as well. It wasn't too surprising that LG's OLED became the hit of the show while Samsung's OLED became an afterthought. PR people, you messed up.

Update: I may have messed up. Samsung tells me that there were some OLED TVs in clear view at the front of the booth. One day one, I must confess that I didn't see them, but I will definitely take Samsung's word for this.  The company said the OLED exhibit that was 'curtained off' was done so to ensure that a two program viewing demonstration could be done with maximum effect.

Winner: Sharp
The company scored big buzz points by showcasing the real TV of the future -- an 8K HDTV that offers a resolution 16 times better than current sets. While it may be years before the 8K hits retail, Sharp gave people a taste of what's to come.

Winner: Dish (Formerly Dish Network)
With noted ham Joe Clayton now as CEO, the satcaster entertained the press by bringing a baby kangaroo to its press conference announcing a new 'Hopper' HD DVR that can record six shows at the same time. (Of course, four of the shows have to be network shows in primetime, but Dish can still say it records six simultaneously.) The press conference was a hoot with Clayton cuddling the baby roo to open the event. While rival DIRECTV all-but ignored CES (it did issue a press release announcing a minor partnership with Samsung.), Dish captured the show's attention by combining product innovation with show business flair.

Loser: Blockbuster
Not only did Dish CEO Clayton say that Blockbuster's streaming service was not ready to challenge Netflix nationally (minus the Dish subscription requirement), he told Reuters that all "unprofitable" Blockbuster stores would soon close. (Dish purchased Blockbuster in a bankruptcy auction last year.) It was not a good show for Blockbuster.

Loser: Microsoft
Microsoft was not only a loser for announcing that this would be its last CES ever, the company got the 'sore loser' tag as well for not making any news at the show. Company CEO Steve Ballmer gave a keynote address to kick off the show on Monday night, but it only served to prove that even Justin Timberlake can be boring when cast in the wrong role. (Timberlake shared the stage with Ballmer for part of the presentation at Microsoft's invitation.)

You would think that Microsoft would go out with a bang, but the company's keynote barely made a whimper. And to make matters worse, Reuters reported during the show that Microsoft has had to put its Net TV cable-like subscription service on hold because it's having trouble persuading programmers to license their shows.

Winner: The Consumer Electronics Association
Prior to the show, several media outlets published articles saying that CES was no longer relevant and that an analysis of past shows proved that top CES products often failed in the marketplace. The latter charge may have some truth, but despite the gloomy talk, the CES broke an all-time record this year with 153,000 attendees. Kudos to the Consumer Electronics Association for keeping its eye on the ball.

What do you think? Offer your comments below!

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