Credit: Michael Schaffert
It's late Sunday as I write this, and I seem to have made it home to my rent-controlled sanctuary somewhere in Manhattan -- or beneath it, you'll never know. I started detoxing Friday evening because a permanently drunken perspective is useful only in Las Vegas. Walk around that way in New York for more than six hours and they'll find you floating face-down in a Brooklyn dumpster the following morning.
When I came out of my J. Walker-caffeine coma around 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, I hurriedly gathered all the free thumb drives I'd collected and used to store my show notes, plunking them into the decorative fruit bowl on the dining room table of my high-roller's suite. Torturing my brain, I managed to get them into what I believed was chronological order affixing sequential number stickers to each with a stolen glue stick and tears. Then I stuffed them into my pockets and suitcases along with what I'm pretty sure weren't my clothes and sprinted to the airport and a 7 a.m. flight back to the City That Lies About Never Sleeping.
[ Tech and loathing in Las Vegas: For four-eyes only: The Google Glass future is here | Sense Mother, may I? The most disturbing tech of CES | Can we talk? Send your tech war story to firstname.lastname@example.org and get a $50 AmEx gift cheque if InfoWorld publishes it. We're all ears! ]
My cab driver on the way to McCarran had been a passenger on my way there, now working off severe gambling debts he incurred impressing his exotic new dancer-wife, Shadow, while my cab driver from LaGuardia was Travis Kalanick courageously crossing growing taxi driver picket lines trying to drum up business for Uber. Different men, but both were mumbling angry Babylonian curses to themselves, and both were driving Toyota Priuses -- which are surprisingly roomy and slow.
Once I made it home and Pammy had lovingly refused to give me a travel-stress-reducing neck rub, I dug my thumb drives out of my various bags, clothes, and crevices; poured a cup of New York cwu-a-offee; and got to work contemplating the last stage of the Cringely CES formula: the Hidden Hotness. This exalted echelon of electronic eminence is voraciously coveted by all CES technorati and very difficult to achieve. Unlike a mere "best of show" designation, the Hidden Hotness has actual requirements. It needs to combine the pinnacle of CES's two most important business disciplines: gratuitous engineering and bald-faced marketing hype.
T-Mobile's smoke and mirrors
I had several contenders to choose from, beginning with T-Mobile and the new buyback program it's flinging at customers in a last, lifesaver-in-the-waves attempt to keep from drowning. However, seeing as how this is really just a way for CEO John Legere to funnel money from his engineering budget that otherwise might foolishly be squandered improving the carrier's service and instead pour it into a marketing campaign that might keep the company from dying out like a big pink panda in an ill-managed zoo, it only qualified as a leader in marketing.
I'm a trained journalist with a keen eye, so I don't miss details like that, even though Legere attempted to blind me with his hipster haircut and fantastic keynote quotes he made during his speech the day after he got kicked out of Monday's AT&T event. "It's not Joe Shmoe pulling porn off the Internet that's the problem," he growled, "it's the data cap." That's just one of many. See if you can find it on the YouTubes.
I've met Joe Shmoe and he says he's going to stop downloading the dirt because why would you want to look at smut on your tiny phone screen anyway? Shmoe was killed a few days later when he walked in front of bus while staring at his phone with a badly timed Viagra episode. They're making a preventative infomercial about it starring Andy Dick.