There’s nothing small about where I’ll be this week. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas expects over 130,000 people to roam through 2500 exhibits on 1.6 million square feet of convention floor. A lot of stuff to see, a lot of people to talk to, and, as usual, a lot of hype. We’ll be seeing article after article in the consumer press about all the wonderful new gadgets, "latest trends," and revolutionary changes in our industry. Wait, what do I mean "our" industry? Well, if you haven’t gotten the message by now, we, the cable industry, are at the core of what is going on in consumer electronics at the moment. None of the "big" stuff happens if we don’t successfully deliver either the video or the data in the first place! I fully expect to see, hear and read a lot about home networking, "portable" media and the like, as well as the continuing story about the digital transition, HDTV, flat screen televisions and so on. But think about it. Consumers don’t have anything to download to their new video iPod if the broadband connection isn’t working right. There’s little need to network the house if the music, video and data doesn’t arrive. The Slingbox is amazing for "slinging" your home video reception to any computer anywhere, but it won’t do you much good if the video doesn’t first get to your house. Cable is at the core of most of what we are going to be seeing at CES, and it would be very wise for the cable and the consumer electronics folks to realize that and start working closely together to make sure our customers get what they deserve; both great service and great new "stuff" to use with it. There is both a "big picture" aspect to this as well as the small things that make all the difference in a consumer experience. The big stuff takes time and lots of effort. I’ve been writing about that lately, things like digital rights management, CableLabs standards, downloadable security and the like. But the small things, from the consumer standpoint, are the ones most easily noticed. We should never forget the small things! Some examples: One of the most popular new HDTV purchases is a flat plasma screen television. They are great. But they come with a cautionary note that you should not keep anything "static" on the screen for too long because it could "burn in" the display. The television technology has been getting better each year on this point, but still, better safe than sorry. So why does my local PBS station, WETA, have a bright white "bug" unmoving on the bottom right of the screen constantly? I’ve complained about the "bugs" before, particularly on HD transmissions (INHD is another major culprit). These folks have got to know that a large percentage of viewers are watching with a plasma set… so it’s a "small thing," but fade out that bug! By the way, PBS has gotten even worse on HD since they now add another bug on the top left (at least it’s not bright white!) on the HD specials, so all that wonderful video is permanently marred by commercials for themselves on the "non-commercial" station. Cable is not a lot better. Consider Music Choice. You’re listening to music delivered on your cable system and two thirds of the screen is a static image… for hours on end. A small thing, but we could do better. Have more examples? Send me an email.