What We're Watching at CES 2018
In this pre-taped episode of the MarketFoolery podcast, Chris Hill talks with David Kretzmann from Motley Fool Supernova about what he's going to check out at this year's Consumer Electronics Show.
Find out which keynote speakers he's going to watch, why a bombshell might drop from some of them, and which ones you'll want to pay special attention to. Among other things, they also cover some of the strangest tech that's been prominently featured at previous CES shows, as well as how David and Co. decide to split up their time at such a sprawling and densely packed conference.
A full transcript follows the video.
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This video was recorded on Jan. 2, 2018.
Chris Hill: It's Tuesday, January 2nd. Welcome to MarketFoolery! I'm Chris Hill. Joining me in studio today, from Supernova, David Kretzmann. Happy New Year!
David Kretzmann: Happy 2018!
Hill: Happy 2018! We're actually taping this a little early.
Kretzmann: Premature, but hey, we're almost there.
Hill: We're almost there. And part of the reason we're taping early is, you're heading out to Las Vegas in early January, along with 150,000 of your closest friends, to CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, which is the biggest consumer electronic trade show in the world.
Kretzmann: Yeah, and it's increasingly become more of a tech-oriented display. Two years ago, we had Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) steal the show when they announced they were going full global with their expansion, had Reed Hastings really steal the show there. Last year, you had Under Armour (NYSE: UA) (NYSE: UAA) pitching more of its connected fitness stuff, which, obviously, over the last year --
Hill: Yeah, how did that work out for them?
Kretzmann: Yeah, it didn't work out so well. Not as well as Netflix a couple of years ago.
Hill: But, you also had NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA) last year.
Kretzmann: Yeah, NVIDIA worked out quite well. It really varies. You see a lot of content companies, which we'll talk about, really anything to do with tech, mobile, that whole space, content included in there, entertainment, you really have such a wide array of companies and trends and technologies that are pitched at CES, which is a lot of fun.
Hill: This is a massive event both in terms of the number of people who go, the number of countries that are represented, typically more than 50 countries around the world are represented in some form in the exhibit space. And speaking of the exhibit space, 11 venues, more than 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space. So, I hope you packed really comfortable shoes.
Kretzmann: That's the plan. You only see a fraction of everything there. We'll have some interviews that are already arranged by the time we get out there. I hope this year, we actually have time to walk some of the floor space and see some of the exhibits and companies that are pitching their latest and greatest technologies. But you know that when you go there, you're only going to see a small sliver of everything that's there.
Hill: And just the categories alone. You could break this down by category, and we're not taking this podcast to CES, but if we did, we could easily do a week's worth of episodes when you consider, you have Robotics and AI, you have Health and Wellness, you have esports, Internet of Things, Automotive, Start-ups, it's such a massive event. To go back to the keynotes, you and I were talking about this earlier, not too exciting this year. You have the CEO of Ford Motor (NYSE: F), you have the CEO of Intel (NASDAQ: INTC). Those are two big, consequential companies. But I don't know. It doesn't seem to have the sizzle of a Netflix or an NVIDIA.
Kretzmann: No, looking at the list of keynotes this year, it definitely seems like more of a sleeper list of speakers. Over the last couple of years, like we talked about, you had Netflix, Under Armour, NVIDIA, companies that were much sexier, for lack of a better term. And maybe that is the best term we can use there. I was also interested to see that on Wednesday, almost all the keynote speakers there are in the Content, Entertainment, Media category. You have David Zaslav from Discovery Communications, you have executives from Comcast, A&E, YouTube, Turner, and Hulu. So, to me, looking at the list of speakers and the companies that will be there, it seems like content and entertainment and media will really be more of a focal point this year than it has been in past year. Obviously, two years ago, you had Netflix make a huge splash at CES. But it seems like you have a lot of these media companies coming to CES and looking for a bigger presence there. And, obviously, with Disney going after Fox now, you're seeing a lot of shake-ups and discussions of, what does the future of media look like. So, I think that will be on the forefront of everyone's minds at CES this year.
Hill: That's what I think is setting itself up to be maybe the most interesting main stage event, is executives from Turner Broadcasting and Hulu, and the title is, Reimagining Television: A Conversation with Hulu and Turner. Of course, this was something that was arranged weeks, if not months ago. And now, with the very recent news that Disney is going to be the majority owner of Hulu, it'll be interesting to see what comes out of that. You have to believe that's going to dominate the conversation.
Kretzmann: Yeah. The title of that session is appropriate now. I think now that Disney does have majority of control of Hulu, it really will be reimagining the future of what Hulu looks like. And so far, Bob Iger has really pitched that Hulu will be where the adult-themed content -- that always sounds so weird to say -- but, Hulu will really be the branch for not so much the family friendly content, but the gritty, violent, for lack of a better word, adult content.
Hill: "Now that we own FX, that's where we're going to put the FX content."
Kretzmann: [laughs] Yeah, FX doesn't really fit in alongside Bambi.
Hill: Not really. Having slightly dissed the CEOs of Intel and Ford Motor, I want to try and make it up, at least Jim Hackett at Ford Motor, because connected cars has been a pretty prominent presence at CES for the last couple of years. And in mid-January, of course, is the big auto show in Detroit. It's an incredibly busy time for the automotive industry, because they really are spending, maybe not as much time at CES as they are at the auto show, but certainly spending a lot of time there. So, I think while I'm personally more intrigued by what could come out of the reimagining television conversation, it would not be a shock if Jim Hackett made some news with the connected cars space.
Kretzmann: Yeah. I think the same goes for Intel, because Intel acquired Mobileye over the last year. Really trying to make a bigger push into the chips and technology that go into powering autonomous vehicles. And Ford, to its credit, has done a lot to venture into the ride-sharing space and autonomous vehicles. So, it's not like they're sitting on their hands with this. But, yeah, they do have the challenge of being an established business in the vehicle space, and trying to find ways to not get disrupted by these emerging trends and technologies. And they seem to be doing a nice job with that. So, it'll be interesting to see what they have to say at CES, and obviously the automotive show a week or two after CES. But, yeah, a little bit more of a sleeper name as far as keynote speakers go. But, I agree, I wouldn't be surprised if they have some news, especially within that connected car or the ride sharing space category to announce at CES.
Hill: Alright. With so much content, with all these different venues, and this does seem like one of those years where, when you look at the lineup of featured speakers at CES, no one's really leaping out to you. So, that frees up a little bit of time. How do you decide, as an investor, as an analyst? How do you decide what you're going to focus on?
Kretzmann: We can get a list of all the exhibitors. So, a lot of what we do -- it'll be me and maybe one or two other analysts, or people who are going out to CES -- and we'll just skim through the list of companies that'll be there and see if there are any companies that we're familiar with, or are in any of The Motley Fool's services as recommendations. And thankfully, we have Mac Greer, who behind the scenes will help us set up interviews with some of these companies, so we have an idea of where to go, when to go there, and who are we going to be talking to. So, having some of that set up beforehand really makes it a lot easier to navigate. We'll be talking to some executives from NVIDIA Sunday night, which will be the first night that we fly in there. NVIDIA is having an event for the press, where they'll probably be making some announcements, and there will be a chance for us to catch up on the latest there. Skyworks Solutions is a company that we talk to quite a bit. And, some other companies that look interesting to us that we think we could have a good conversation with that we're interested in and our members might be interested in. And then, one of the perks -- I guess you could call it that -- with getting a press badge, as soon as you sign up for it, a lot of companies will pitch their event or their booth, their exhibition, to you. And I'd say one of the weirdest or most surprising ones is a pitch for the world's first robot suitcase. This is an autonomous suitcase that follows you around. It has Bluetooth and security features and all these things. It's like, I don't think that's anything I've ever thought about, and I don't know if I even need it, even after hearing about it, especially when it has a price tag of over $1,000.
Hill: So, that's the feature? Because if you tell me robot suitcase, the first place my brain goes to is, it's going to pack for me.
Kretzmann: That'd be nice.
Hill: I might pay up for a suitcase that would do the packing for me. But this is just, you don't have to pull it, you don't have to carry it, and you don't have to pull it on wheels. Like R2D2 or BB-8, it'll wheel itself and stick with you.
Kretzmann: That's actually brilliant. I think if it looked like R2D2 or BB-8, I actually might go ahead and buy that. But, yeah, it doesn't pack for you, but it can go up to almost seven miles an hour according to the press release that the company sent along. It really just follows you around. I think it tethers to your phone through Bluetooth or something, it can follow you based on where your phone is at. You need to use your fingerprint to open it up. And apparently, when it's just at home, it can roam around the home and be a security guard. That's another thing they pitch you on.
Hill: What? No.
Kretzmann: Yeah, it seems a little bit scattered here. If I was a venture capital investor, this is not a company I would be leaping to right away. So, yeah, the world's first robot suitcase. Out of curiosity, I might just swing by and check it out.
Hill: I was just going to say, I think that's a go by, tweet out a photo. You were there last year, wasn't there some enormous glowing rubber duck or something like that? What was that thing?
Kretzmann: Edwin the Smart Duck. It was really a Bluetooth speaker housed in a rubber ducky. That's the type of thing, I actually might use that every now and then. We'll see if Edwin the Smart Duck is still there, and if there's anything that can possibly top that, but I have my doubts that that can be topped.
Hill: Alright, I'm looking forward to hearing more when you return. Have a great time!
Kretzmann: Thanks, Chris! I appreciate it.
Hill: As always, people on the program may have interests in the stocks they talk about, and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against, so don't buy or sell stocks based solely on what you hear. That's going to do it for this edition of MarketFoolery. The show is mixed by Dan Boyd. I'm Chris Hill. Thanks for listening! We'll see you tomorrow!
Chris Hill owns shares of Under Armour (A Shares), Under Armour (C Shares), and Walt Disney. David Kretzmann owns shares of Netflix, Nvidia, Skyworks Solutions, Under Armour (A Shares), Under Armour (C Shares), and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Ford, Netflix, Nvidia, Skyworks Solutions, Under Armour (A Shares), Under Armour (C Shares), and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has the following options: short January 2018 $105 calls on Skyworks Solutions. The Motley Fool recommends Comcast and Intel. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.