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 “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 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.”