Three elephants still standing

Samsung had their attention at CES 2013.

Samsung left Las Vegas with a firm grip on the industry’s leadership crown. Its CES presence overshadowed other traditional consumer electronics companies, cementing its position as a dominant global technology player.

Paying Bill Clinton to guest star at its keynote address was just icing on the cake. Arguably, the flexible touch screen that Stephen Woo, Samsung’s president of electronic device solutions, also demonstrated on stage drew more attention than the ex-president.

With cutting edge products in pretty much every category present on the CES exhibit floor and the growing strength of its Galaxy tablets and smart phones in the critical mobile sector, Samsung had no peers. Sony and Panasonic tried to measure up, but fell far short. LG also combines success in mobile technology and devices with a full range of consumer electronics products, but lacks the strategic and market presence to lead.

Samsung was on the minds of most of the experts and executives who spoke at CES, and particularly at mobile and telecommunications oriented events and programs. Apple and Google were often mentioned too, but neither was at the show. And both depend on their mobile operating systems – iOS and Android – to maintain market control. Samsung has the luxury of choice. It can build products on top of the current technology leaders or nurture new ones.

Of the four mobile and technology “elephants” going into the show, the loser at CES was Microsoft. With mobile market share scraping along in the sub–5% range and maybe even falling, Windows 8 was an afterthought. Also absent from CES, Microsoft relied on technology partners and manufacturers like, well, Samsung to carry its message. It got little more than lip service.

Facebook and Amazon were most frequently mentioned as Microsoft’s likely replacement at the head of the pack. They didn’t exhibit at CES, either. This year’s show belonged to Samsung.