Chinese Tech At CES: An Alternative POV


TCL at CES 2019

Much has been written about China’s diminished presence at CES 2019. Looking strictly at the numbers, the story seems clear. The CES 2019 Exhibitor directory listed 1,211 Chinese exhibitors, down from 1,551 at the 2018 show (a 20 percent drop). Add in the congressionally approved CFIUS (the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) reforms, which all but dried up Chinese venture money flowing into the United States, then add the on-again/off-again China-vs.-US trade war, and it’s easy to adopt a bearish attitude toward Chinese tech. But there’s more to this story than the numbers and the politics suggest.

CES 2019 Tech East Central Hall

Walking into the Central Hall of CES 2019, you might have been overwhelmed by the three incumbent tech giants. Samsung, LG, and Sony all had exhibits in their customary locations, and they were impressive. The jewels in their respective crowns were 8K smart TVs and, to be fair, the image quality from all three manufacturers was breathtaking.

We can get into whether or not 8K video is ever going to be a thing for consumers, or if broadcasters and production companies will ever be able to afford to upgrade their workflows to deliver 8K (no one will pay more for 8K content than they pay for 4K content). What’s important here is that 8K is what the “Big Three” were using to demonstrate the state of the art in display technology.

CES, the “Chinese Electronics Show”

If you walked a little farther into Central Hall, you absolutely would have been overwhelmed with the number and size of the Chinese exhibits: Hisense, Haier, Huawei, TCL, and Changhong all had massive booths with exceptional technology on display. Hisense and TCL both have 8K smart TVs in the works and TCL will start producing an 8K set with Roku built-in by the end of 2019. That’s at the cutting edge.

Shipping Now

All of the Chinese manufacturers have direct knock-offs of technology designed and offered by the Big Three, and they are available now. What caught my attention were the quality and price points of the Chinese 4K sets and video monitors. These are not “cheap, disposable, knock-offs built at a price”; they are very high-quality devices made every bit as well as the devices coming from Korea or Japan. This objective fact will force the Big Three into a new experiential-based marketing strategy or force them into a race to the bottom on price. Possibly both.

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Shelly Palmer is Fox 5 New York's On-air Tech Expert (WNYW-TV) and the host of Fox Television's monthly show Shelly Palmer Digital Living. He also hosts United Stations Radio Network's, ...

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