Opinion

Steve Jobs should not come Back to Apple

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Will Steve Jobs come back to Apple as scheduled this summer? Maybe. But I would submit that he shouldn't.

I'll say it again: Steve Jobs should not come back as Chief Executive Officer of Apple.

Not "he will not," or guesses to that effect. He should not. It's not necessary, he's not needed and it can be argued it's not good for him or Apple.

Jobs said, in his open letter from mid-January, "...the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction..." If Jobs comes back to Apple as the company's CEO, what makes anyone think that wil change? Even if Jobs comes back looking as hale and hearty as he has in the past, there will always be questions about his health. Granted, a lot of those questions are due to Apple obfuscating in the past regarding Jobs but that won't stop pundits, the media and the Mac Community from wondering and speculating about the issue. It has been and will continue to be a distraction for the company as long as Jobs is the face of Apple.

Look at it from two points of view: Does Apple need Jobs as CEO and does Jobs need to be Apple's CEO?

I Invented … the Apple Logo

In 1977, Rob Janoff was handed a lousy pro bono assignment … Working for Steve Jobs.

“There were many people who said Apple would go bankrupt if they went ahead with the logo,” says Rob Janoff, the graphic designer credited with thinking up the world-famous emblem.

“For inspiration, the first thing I did was go to the supermarket, buy a bag of apples and slice them up. I just stared at the wedges for hours,” recalls Janoff. The fruit of his labor: a simple 2-D monochromatic apple, with a healthy bite taken from the right side. Jobs loved the conceit-only he suggested it be more colorful. Janoff’s boss disagreed, insisting the logo be made all black to save on printing costs. “But Jobs was resolute, arguing that color was the key to humanizing the company,” says Janoff. “So I just put colors where I thought they should be, not even thinking about a prism.”

What thanks did Janoff, now the owner of his own Chicago-based graphic design firm, get for all his hard work? “Not even a holiday card.”

Microsoft Advertisements could help Apple sell Computers

At the end of the day, those who perceive Macs to be superior will continue to buy them, and and ad that portrays PCs as cheaper will do very little to change this perception.

In an effort to undo the damage caused by Apple, Microsoft launched a $300 million advertisement campaign. One of the latest advertisements from Microsoft portrays a woman trying to find a laptop for under a $1000. She goes first to an Apple store but comes out complaining that there are no options for her price range. She states, “I guess I’m not cool enough to be a Mac person.”

According to ChannelWeb, Michael Oh, founder and president of Tech Superpowers, an Apple partner, indicated recently that talking about cost as the main reason for buying a PC is like telling a BMW shopper to buy a cheap car. He states, “Microsoft is drawing out this comparison, but what ends up happening is the ads highlight the value that Macs bring to the table even more.”

I don’t believe Apple has ever targeted the same audience Microsoft has been gunning for. It also doesn’t seem like Microsoft understands why people buy Macs rather than PCs either. Consumers who are worried about their wallets have already purchased a PC, so who is Microsoft actually targeting? If the company wants to take some market shares from Apple, Microsoft needs to portray the PC as a cool and efficient platfrom.

Macworld Buying Guides: External Desktop Hard Drives

A hard disk drive contains spinning platters with magnetic surfaces, and mechanical arms with heads that read and write data on those platters. The hard drive in your Mac is often referred to as an internal hard drive. An external hard drive is a hard drive, packaged in a case, that connects to your Mac via USB 2.0, FireWire 400, FireWire 800, or eSATA.

External desktop hard drives are great because they offer the best combination of features. They’re relatively affordable, and prices drop regularly; you can buy 1TB USB-only external hard drives for under $200. They have faster data-transfer speeds than DVDs or CDs. They’re easy to use: with most external hard drives, all you have to do is plug the device into the proper port. They can be disconnected from one computer and attached to another. And they come in a variety of sizes and forms.

Overall, if you’re looking for a quick and painless way to add massive amounts of storage for your music, photos, videos, or system backups, an external hard drive is hard to beat.

"Hottest" iTunes Songs will Cost $1.29 on April 7

Shawn's Comment: I'm of an opposite mind - let the record labels mess around with pricing, screw it up and come crawling back to the 99 cent price point.

Remember in 2007 when Apple started selling "iTunes Plus" tracks as DRM-free and 256 kbps AAC files? Much later you were able to upgrade your songs on a per-track basis, if you were so inclined. Well, get ready for more pricing changes. The LA Times reports a date has been set for the kickoff of the variable pricing model Apple announced at Macworld this year: April 7. While I doubt most people care about a slightly better listening experience (seriously, have you used an FM transmitter to play music in your car?), I think simply paying more because a song is popular won't go over so well.

Yes, we knew this was coming. But the average consumer embraced the iTunes Store not only because it was Apple, or the iPod, or iTunes itself, but also because the one-price-fits-all model is easy to understand. People don't pay taxes with Zune Points or Disney Dollars, they prefer to think "Hey, it's just a buck." The psychological impact of having a price point at $0.99US for everything makes impulse shopping a no-brainer.

Pwn2Own Contest Winner: "Macs are safer than Windows"

Miller admitted that he doesn’t bother running any security software on his Macs. ‘I don’t think it protects me as well as it says,’ he argued. ‘If I was worried about attacks, I would use it, but I’m not worried.’”

Charlie Miller, the security expert who won both this and last year’s CanSecWest Pwn2Own security contests by exploiting Macs running Safari, repeated in an interview that he’d recommend Macs to typical users as a safer alternative to Windows PCs.

In an interview with Tom’s Hardware, Miller stated, “I’d say that Macs are less secure for the reasons we’ve discussed here (lack of anti-exploitation technologies) but are more safe because there simply isn’t much malware out there. For now, I’d still recommend Macs for typical users as the odds of something targeting them are so low that they might go years without seeing any malware, even though if an attacker cared to target them it would be easier for them.”

Apple has intentionally crippled Bluetooth in iPod touch 2G

The issue isn’t that Bluetooth wasn’t on the spec sheet in the first place, it’s that everyone’s who has bought an iPod touch has already paid for the hardware, and is now having to pay again to unlock hardware that they’ve already paid for.

As a rule, I think that Apple employs some very smart people. But every so often the company does something that just pushes the boundaries of milking their customers too far.

Take the revelation at Apple’s iPhone OS 3.0 preview event, where it emerged that the next software update to come down the pipes will activate Bluetooth in iPod touch 2G devices … that is, for a fee of $10 (OK, for the pedantic out there, the charge will be $9.99).

Teardowns showed a Broadcom Bluetooth chipset which has support for 2.1+EDR, but Apple’s spec sheet made no mention of the feature on the iPod touch. While Apple fanboys chose to believe that Apple wouldn’t lock out functionality deliberately, and that there must be some other reason for the inclusion of the chipset, others came to the conclusion that something fishy was going on. Apple’s Greg Joswiak confirmed that Bluetooth was present on the iPod touch 3G and that the next $10 upgrade would activate it for users.

Now, I don’t begrudge any company charging for things, but Apple does seem to go to some crazy lengths to milk customers.

Apple's "One," as in "$100", more Thing

I'm not saying Apple's off to the races, but these might just be the first big steps as the company strives to come back up to speed.

With Apple closing over $100 for the first time in more than a month — did you notice? — and only the second time since December, the time might finally be here that Apple's business fundamentals trump the other crap torpedoing these shares. Each day, with each announcement — whether it’s the new Macs, that new Shuffle, or more importantly the new iPhone software, Apple is proving that the company can operate just fine in this new Steve-less realm. And it's doing so in spades.

Apple at $100 isn't a panacea. It's a start. A sign post. A symbol. An important psychological level. But holding this level is far more important as Apple tries to establish higher lows and higher highs. The fundamentals are there; that big liability is gone.

iPhone OS 3.0: So Close and Yet…

On one level, it's hard for me to write anything critical about iPhone OS 3.0 (announced yesterday, but not publicly available until sometime this summer). After all, Apple has taken a device that is already perhaps the most essential piece of technology I own —and made it better, much better.

As it turned out, I had to be in San Francisco yesterday during Apple's media event. While there, and in a waiting room, I used Safari to follow live updates of the event, talked to colleagues via Twitter and made some notes about all the news. In between, I still had a few minutes to return to an ebook I'm reading. All of this was done with my iPhone. Even as recently as a year ago, I could hardly imagine being able to do all this. Just amazing.

And yet...my excitement over the iPhone OS 3.0 announcement was tinged with more than a bit of disappointment. What seemed especially perplexing was how close Apple came to hitting bulls-eyes, while managing to veer slightly off target at the last second

Apple TV’s Missed Opportunity

Apple's announcement of HD movies sales being added to the iTunes Store may have been good news for consumers of Apple-supplied content—especially Apple TV users, who are best poised to enjoy such HD content. But it also highlights the big drawback of the Apple TV—that Apple sees it as a way to sell you more TV shows and movies, not as a way for you to access and watch all the video content out there.

Sure, you can capture and convert video files to play on your TV via an Apple TV (a time-consuming and sometimes multi-step process), but what about streaming Web video? Beside YouTube content, the Apple TV provides no way to view Web videos—free TV show episodes from sites such as Hulu, for example. This NBC Universal and News Corporation venture features content from Fox, NBC Universal, MGM, Sony Pictures Television, and Warner Bros., and is available through a standard Web browser. And it’s exactly what the Apple TV is missing.

So why hasn’t Apple opened up the Apple TV to the outside world? The most obvious answer is that such a move would cut into iTunes Store sales. But perhaps considering that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has called the Apple TV a “hobby,” Apple just doesn’t care to invest too much time or effort into it.

They're Apps to make Money

"In one week, I made what I would've made in four months," he said. "That's when I decided to pull the trigger."

Todd Moore didn't foresee that he was about to embark on a new career when he bought his first Mac last year. It just sort of happened.

Moore had been spending his working life pulling down six figures as a network security professional -- a job he liked well enough. But after reading a few get-rich-quick stories about programmers making good money from selling applications designed to run on the iPhone or iPod Touch, he decided to give it a go. How hard could it be?

Learning the tricks of iPhone development in his spare time, Moore rolled out a handful of applications and posted them for sale on Apple's App Store. Some went nowhere, sales-wise, but a couple have hit the big time.

The biggest success, so far: White Noise, a $1 program that generates soothing sounds for people who have a hard time getting to sleep. Card Counter, a $3 application designed to help users learn the principles of counting cards to win at blackjack, has also been a brisk seller. Last month, on the software sales-tracking charts at iTunes, both programs appeared on the "top 20" most-purchased list. That's about the time Moore gave his two weeks notice and decided to pursue this dream full time.

Meebo CEO on iPhone Chat App, Push Notifications

Ars Technica spoke with Meebo's CEO Seth Sternberg about his company's forthcoming chat app and why it took iPhone OS 3.0 for Meebo to arrive natively on Apple's gadgets.

Meebo is a Web-based, rich multi-network chat service that boasts over 45 million users worldwide. As of Apple's iPhone OS 3.0 event, the company now also boasts a native iPhone app in the works, complete with one of the platform's best and most-anticipated features: Push Notifications. To learn more about Meebo's forthcoming app, Ars spoke with Seth Sternberg, Meebo's co-founder and CEO.

Meebo supports a wide variety of networks, ranging from incumbents like AIM to new challengers like Facebook and even Flixter (yes, even a social movie service apparently needs its own chat network now). Sternberg tells Ars that Meebo wants "everything we do on the web to be available on the iPhone app," and the company has almost nailed that goal. While all of Meebo's supported networks will be available on its iPhone app, as will Flixter activity notifications like a friend rating a film, Meebo Rooms will not make the initial release.

What’s Wrong with Apple Stores?

In a recent post about Microsoft’s new retail initiative, I suggested that that there are aspects of Apples customer experience that could be improved. Several readers responded, asked for more specifics thoughts.

Let me start by saying that Apple has the best dollars per square foot metrics in all of retail. They don’t need to apologize about their stores to anyone. Further, there are many elements of their experience that I love, including their signature architecture, genius bar, useful fact tags, category signage with decision tree suggestions, window displays and wireless CRM.

That being said, here are some areas that could be improved…

Apple’s Greatest (and Worst) TV Commercials

What do you think of this list?

No one asked me what the best Mac ever was (the PowerBook G4), or the greatest Mac game (I’ve always been torn between Civilization II and Championship Manager) or what Apple needs to do right now. (Give more exclusives to that dashing fellow from Macworld. No, not Dalrymple. I said dashing.) And I’ll tell you, it hurts. It hurts very deeply.

But there is something I can contribute to our 25th anniversary hoopla—a rundown of the best and worst Apple commercials of the Mac era. I’m uniquely qualified for this task—I watch quite a bit of television. (After all, something has to fill the empty hours when I’m not playing Civilization II or Championship Manager.)

The problem, of course, when drawing up a list of the best Apple TV spots of all time is that your toughest decision has already been made for you. You have to put Apple’s “1984” ad, which introduced the Mac 25 years ago, in the top slot.

Developers enthused about iPhone 3.0 SDK

The mood of iPhone developers is enthusiastic about the upcoming changes announced by Apple.

During Apple's media event on Tuesday, Senior Vice President of iPhone Software Scott Forstall announced that iPhone OS 3.0 will include over 1,000 new APIs for developers to take advantage of when building iPhone apps. Though he only discussed perhaps a dozen or so during the presentation, iPhone developers are already buzzing with excitement.

The response so far seems relatively positive. "I didn't have many expectations for the 3.0 OS, to be honest, but this update definitely seems like it's going to be huge for both consumers and developers," developer Bryan Henry told Ars. "There has been a lot added API-wise that I think developers can really get creative with."

If the iPhone wasn't already an attractive platform—there are over 50,000 registered developers according to Apple's Forstall—the new abilities in the latest SDK make the platform even more so. "Clearly some of these features are going to dramatically increase developer interest and innovation," said Joe Pezzillo of Metafy.

Specifically, the developers we spoke to were most excited about the addition of CoreData, a data-handling API commonly used in apps designed for Mac OS X Leopard, and the new peer-to-peer communication ability. "Apple has answered a lot of what I was most interested in seeing API-wise—mostly the Core Data and P2P connectivity features," said Justin Williams of Second Gear.

15 iPhone 3.0 Features Macworld would like to See

What would you like to see Apple announce in iPhone 3.0?

Talk about ungrateful—the iPhone hadn’t been out for more than a month when we created our first list of “missing” iPhone features we’d like to see.

But Apple has now had more than 20 months to grow and refine the iPhone. While the iPhone 2.0 software update of July 2008 added a bunch of interesting new features, there are still plenty of other features—some of which we’ve been pushing for since the iPhone’s initial announcement—that still haven’t arrived.

And so we present our latest list of the 15 features we hope we’ll see at Tuesday’s iPhone 3.0 announcement event in Cupertino. Some of them are old standards; others are fresh and new.

TUAW's Interview with Pangea Software CEO Brian Greenstone

Pangea Software have made some of the most successful and fun software for the Mac. Games like Cro-Mag Rally, Nanosaur and their most popular title, Bugdom, have propelled them into the upper echelon of Mac game developers. More recently, Pangea is making games for the iPhone and iPod touch and have, in fact, made the decision to develop for those devices exclusively.

TUAW sat down with Pangea's CEO Brian Greenstone during SXSW to talk with him about his favorite games, making games for the iPhone and why he thinks its easier to make games for the iPhone and iPod touch.

3G Phones exposing Networks’ Last-Gen Technology

Industry analysts say the problems at all carriers are becoming more glaring as the growing popularity of so-called smartphones puts pressure on their networks.

Oh, the things modern mobile phones can do. They are music-playing, video-taking, direction-providing multimedia powerhouses. But many people have trouble getting them to perform their most basic functions, like making phone calls.

The underlying problem, industry analysts say, is the complex quilt of the nation’s wireless networks. The major mobile carriers have spent tens of billions of dollars on new voice and data networks that they advertise as superfast wireless express lanes. But analysts say these upgrades present major engineering challenges, and the networks often underperform.

The resulting technological glitches have given many owners of fancy new phones the urge to throw them out the window and onto the highway.

For many, the iPhone has become a symbol of the gap between the promise of a powerful device and the reality of inconsistent service. Its owners complain of continual hiccups, particularly in certain cities.

AT&T, which is the exclusive carrier for the iPhone in the United States, says it has done a lot to improve its network, and is doing more. Last Tuesday, the company announced plans to invest around $11 billion this year to expand and improve its wireless and broadband networks.

For some AT&T customers, more improvements to the company’s so-called 3G, or third-generation, high-speed network can’t happen soon enough.

The Top 5 Worst Apple Products of All Time

It's an interesting list of only because, look at when these products were developed - Apple seemingly hasn't had a clunker in quite some time...

In honor of the new iPod shuffle I thought I’d put together a list of the 5 actual worst Apple products of all time.

5. Original iMac “Hockey Puck” Mouse

4. Macintosh TV

3. Twentieth Anniversary Mac

2. Apple ///

1. Pippin

Hackintoshing can be Fun, but You better be ready for It

Getting the OS to run on a PC was like spending days beating a confession out of a political prisoner. Somewhere around Day Three, the lines between torturer and torturee began to blur a little.

For nearly a week, I’ve been running Mac software on a Dell Mini 9 netbook.

The moment Apple announced that they were transitioning to Intel CPUs three years years ago and started selling Macs that used the exact same processors as every Windows computer, the challenge of getting a Windows machine to run Mac OS X became less like teaching a dog how to drive a car and more like trying to get a Brit to drive on the right side of the road. Yet despite the compatible hardware, every scheme for putting Mac OS X on a PC resulted in a machine that was only really useful for collecting the $10 someone wagered you that it couldn’t be done.

Which is why I’ve never written about my previous Hackintoshing experiences. You folks have been very good to me over the years, after all and I wouldn’t want to put you through what I went through.

The Case for - and against - an Apple Netbook

So we've got rumors of an Apple netbook combined with Apple's stated disinclination to actually manufacture one. Are we about to see Apple dive into the budget hardware space or is it just wishful thinking?

The rumor mill is churning once again after a Chinese newspaper says two companies are currently working on supplies for Apple's netbook. This seems to go against the Apple party line on netbooks, but we can think of two reasons for (and against) such a venture.

Apple netbook rumors were revived once again this week as manufacturer leaks out of the far East are buzzing unnamed new products. According to the report, neither company had a specific timeline for when this mythical netbook would become a reality, though Wintek said that touchscreen shipments for the device would begin during the second half of 2009.

Of course, the rumor flies in the face of what Apple has said about netbooks. While the company has been careful not to dismiss the netbook space completely, it has kept the topic at arm's length for months. Steve Jobs said last fall that he considered netbooks a new market, and one that Apple didn't plan on participating in just yet. In January, COO Tim Cook answered analyst questions about Apple netbooks by saying that the company is "watching" the sub-$500 market, but had no current plans to join the party right now.

Apple Developers mark a Year of iPhone Apps

The rest of the industry has noticed; virtually every other major smartphone company is scrambling to set up their own App Store-like experience.

Apple's success with iPhone applications wasn't preordained, but the company had a huge leg up on the competition with a hit device, a mature software platform, and the one of the biggest online stores on the planet.

"They had all three sitting there, and that's very difficult to create in this industry," said Travis Boatman, vice president of worldwide studios for EA Mobile, creator of iPhone games such as Spore and Sim City.

But for all the work Apple has done to make the iPhone a success over the past year, its future lies in the hands of outside developers. When Apple CEO Steve Jobs and iPhone software head Scott Forstall first publicly described the parameters of the iPhone software development process a year ago, they set the stage for the stunning growth in iPhone applications that has allowed the iPhone and iPod Touch to become truly personal computers for both work and play.

Kindle 2 improves Design, not Features

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Amazon's Kindle 2 should have been its Kindle 1. That might be a left-handed compliment from this southpaw, but I found the original Kindle electronic book reader to be awkward in design, navigation, and handling.

Fundamentally, the Kindle 2 retains the same software, type display, restrictions on content, and technology as the previous release. Nonetheless, the new version makes a better case for itself.

Why are iPhone Users willing to Pay for Content?

Apple has created an environment that makes buying digital goods easy and common.

It may be no surprise that the best-selling computer book so far this year is “iPhone: The Missing Manual,” by my colleague David Pogue (O’Reilly, 2007).

But here is something that did surprise me: The most popular edition of this book isn’t on paper or the PDF file that O’Reilly Media also sells. It is the downloadable application for the iPhone, according to Tim O’Reilly, the chief executive of O’Reilly Media.

What’s most interesting is how iPhone users are willing to spend money in ways that Web users are not.

Why has this happened?

Why the Japanese (don't) Hate the iPhone

Besides cultural opposition, Japanese citizens possess high, complex standards when it comes to cellphones.

"Apple's iPhone has wowed most of the globe — but not Japan, where the handset is selling so poorly it's being offered for free."

The above is taken from the Wired article on the subject. Turns out the author may very well have made up his facts...

Hands On: Safari 4 Beta Fast, mixes Polish, Rough UI Edges

It should go without saying these days, but if you have any Safari plug-ins (nay, InputManagers) installed (1Password and the like), you may need to remove them to run the new version.

Apple on Tuesday released Safari 4 beta, a new version of its browser for Mac OS X and Windows. This update brings a bunch of new features, including a flashy new Top Sites view, a completely redesigned Windows UI, and support for some impressive emerging Web standards. Ars separates the style from the substance.

Without warning, Apple has released a public beta of Safari 4 for both Mac OS X and Windows. The update brings a variety of new features, broader support for emerging Web standards, and a much more native UI for Windows users, so we took it for a spin.

Top 10 Screensavers for the 21st Century

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Now that screen burn is pretty much a thing of the past, we don't really need screensavers anymore. And many people - quite reasonably - prefer to have their computers go into energy-saver mode when they're away for any significant amount of time. After all, what's the point of displaying power-wasting patterns when you aren't around to enjoy them?

Fair enough, but there is still something to be said for enjoying some interesting displays during those times when you've just stepped back from the Mac for a short while. Today, screensavers can do more than just display repetitive animations (remember Flying Toasters from the After Dark screensaver?) and it's worth investigating what's out there.

Here's a look at ten of the most interesting and enjoyable screensavers I found kicking around the Web.

Making Sense of Mac Market Share Figures

...The numbers from different sources tend to be all over the place. What do they all mean, and what's the big picture for Apple's market share trajectory?

Apple's slice of the market share pie continues to grow, even during this economic downturn. But the numbers from different sources tend to be all over the place. What do they all mean, and what's the big picture for Apple's market share trajectory?

Mac market share has been a hot topic ever since Apple staggered into (and subsequently crawled out of) the gutter in the mid-90s. It has been a slow but steady climb to the point where, as of late, Apple has set quarter after quarter of records when it comes to both Mac and iPod sales.

But, as even the casual Apple-watcher knows, there are many different metrics for measuring Mac market share these days, and they often don't match up. Browser stats, sales figures, notebooks versus desktops—it can all get a little muddy after a while. Here, we try to analyze these different statistics to get a bigger picture of what's really going on with the long-time underdog of the PC world.

Hands on with an Imaginary Apple Netbook

Can a hacked PC laptop tell us anything about Apple’s future mobile devices?

The computer industry is abuzz about “netbooks,” the hot new category of dirt-cheap tiny laptops made by companies such as Asus and MSI. And, as you might expect, the media is also buzzing about the fact that Apple doesn’t make one. (At $999, the least-expensive MacBook costs three times the street price of an MSI Wind laptop.)

As for Apple, it’s playing coy—as usual. In late January, Apple COO Tim Cook said that the company was “watching that space… We’ve got some ideas here.” But, Cook warned, “right now we think the products there are inferior and will not provide an experience to customers that they are happy with.”

I’m not at all convinced that Apple needs to produce a $300 laptop or risk losing its laptop market share to the netbook crowd. In its last financial quarter, the company sold more laptops than it’s ever sold before, all without deigning to play in the world of the netbook. And how much profit margin can Apple really wring out of any sub-$500 laptop?

CES: No Replacement for Macworld Expo

Commentary by yours truly!

There's been a lot of talk recently about the value of a Macworld Expo versus the value of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) happening around the same time each year.

For those of you unfamiliar, CES is a ginormous "industry trade show" (the general public is usually not allowed in) held in Las Vegas each year at the beginning of January.

How big is it? IDG claims Macworld Expo has over 400 exhibitors. CES claims 2700. Macworld Expo claims approximately 40,000 attendees -- CES claims 110,000. The Moscone Center, where Expo is held, has over 700,000 square feet (not all of it used during any given Expo) while CES fills more than 1.7 million square feet of exhibit space.

By any objective measure, CES is a much bigger show.

But is it a more effective one? That's up for debate.