The first thing to note is that is was a BIG deal. The Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show (CES), with some 150,000 atten­dees, not only was a big start for con­ven­tion busi­ness in Las Vegas, it was also a big start for any­one want­i­ng to attract atten­tion for the next big thing in all-things-elec­tron­ic. Craig Lloyd in Slashgear just report­ed how big the event was:CES 2013 was the biggest in its 45-year his­to­ry in terms of square footage, with more than 1.92 mil­lion square feet of exhib­it space, com­pared to 1.86 mil­lion a year ago. Over 3,250 exhibitors showed off 20,000 new prod­ucts at the show this year, and the attendee list includ­ed 35,000 peo­ple from over­seas, with folks from over 170 coun­tries mak­ing an appear­ance at the show.”

CNET put out a list of the best new prod­ucts unveiled at the show. They include:

  • a can-you-believe it 3D print­er: “3D Sys­tems high-end CubeX 3D print­er can make objects in up to three dif­fer­ent col­ors, and out of two dif­fer­ent plas­tics. It also lets you build big­ger objects than any oth­er print­er in its price range.”
  • a smarter smart­phone: “Though its name is like a bad “Star Wars” joke, the Yota­Phone is half e-read­er, half smart­phone: On the front, you’ve got a 4.3-inch, full-col­or LCD screen, and the back, a sec­ondary screen that uses mono­chro­mat­ic e-ink tech­nol­o­gy. All for con­serv­ing bat­tery life, you get the best of both worlds.”
  • and a tele­vi­sion set bet­ter than all the oth­ers: “4K res­o­lu­tion TVs were every­where this year, but Samsung’s ver­sion isn’t just about the extra pix­els — for which there’s no native con­tent, and which cre­ate a dif­fer­ence you won’t be able to dis­cern. This 85-inch show­piece comes in a unique frame design that’s as much art as any TV we’ve ever seen, and its pic­ture qual­i­ty should trump oth­er 4K sets by virtue of a full-array LED back­light. Pric­ing wasn’t announced, but we’d be shocked if it was less than $20K.”

It’s that last item that is cen­tral to this com­men­tary. Because Sam­sung was not alone in pre­sent­ing a next-gen tele­vi­sion set. Sony was there to do the same thing as well.

Some pref­ace on that company’s posi­tion going into CES 2013. Sony has been down, down, down for a num­ber of years. If you bought a share of Sony stock around 2000, you paid more than $150 for it. At the end of 2012, you only need­ed $11.20 to do that. I note that only to stress that Sony has been try­ing to get back to its glo­ry days. One way to do that was to take the lead in tele­vi­sions. In fact, Sony named a new CEO in 2012 with cre­den­tials in just that field. Per Reuters in March 2012: “Sony Corp CEO Kazuo Hirai sig­naled his deter­mi­na­tion to turn around the group’s ail­ing TV busi­ness by keep­ing direct charge of the divi­sion, as the Japan­ese brand fights to regain ground against rivals such as Apple.”

Okay, now the stage is set, lit­er­al­ly. Because when Hirai took the stage at the 2013 CES, the last thing he prob­a­bly thought was that his pre­sen­ta­tion would gen­er­ate head­lines such as this one in philly.com: “Sony goofs on world’s first ultra-HD OLED TV”.

Want to see the embar­rass­ing moment for your­self? (Thanks Bloomberg!) But, in case you haven’t the time, the news report in philly.com tells the sto­ry:

Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai suf­fered an embar­rass­ing moment on a giant tech­nol­o­gy stage Mon­day night, intro­duc­ing the world’s first “ultra-HD” TV using organ­ic light-emit­ting diodes (OLED), only to see the screen go blank as the com­put­er run­ning it had an error.

Hirai stopped mid-speech dur­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion as the screen went blank.

This rev­o­lu­tion­ary TV com­bines the world’s largest OLED dis­play with daz­zling 4K res­o­lu­tion, includ­ing this beau­ti­ful … inter­face screen,” he said, turn­ing to see the screen show a com­put­er error as chuck­les rip­pled through the crowd.

This moment aside, Sony’s TV-to-come does seems to be some­thing to, well, look out for. Reports about the TV itself are quite com­pelling.

Happy Light Bulb

Yet, I speak here not about the TV but about the embar­rass­ing moment for Kazuo Hirai. In itself, it was sim­ply a wish-it-hadn’t-happened moment for him and for the com­pa­ny. Next year, no one at CES will recall the event. But to me the moment is worth this com­ment: when it comes to dis­cov­er­ing what’s next, fail­ure is an option. It’s required, even. The path to the future for any­one striv­ing to offer some­thing with major next poten­tial will always be a rocky one, with ups and downs and — to be sure — moments of embar­rass­ment, pub­lic or oth­er­wise.

If you want to par­tic­i­pate in nextsens­ing on any lev­el, you must give you and those around you per­mis­sion to fail. Like Thomas Edison’s many failed attempts to cre­ate the light­bulb, his atti­tude was cor­rect and com­mend­able: “If I find 10,000 ways some­thing won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not dis­cour­aged, because every wrong attempt dis­card­ed is anoth­er step for­ward.”

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