Why CES Is Still Relevant

Jan 27, 2012 by

CES ice sculpture greets the press at CES Unveiled

With CES now two weeks behind us, I find I’m still filing product information, organizing photos, posting stories, and following up with vendors. This year’s show was one of the more interesting for me…and certainly one of my busiest. Before we put the lid on CES (at least until the new product review units start coming in), I wanted to talk a little bit about the whole thing—to reflect on my experience and share some thoughts about CES and its importance to companies and consumers alike. I also have some final videos and pictures to share.

This was my seventh CES. I clearly remember how overwhelmed I was the first time I went six years ago: a taxi queue that wrapped back and forth over the length of the airport five times; obscenely expensive, often shabby accommodations; multiple venues; thousands and thousands of people; and…Vegas! It’s almost too much for the mind to comprehend. Overwhelming is the one word I consistently use to describe CES.

Bigger is better, and that theme seems to be reinforced by the exhibitor’s press spectacles and enormous booths. Actually, “booth” is technically the wrong word in many cases. I posted a video to our YouTube channel that walks through Microsoft’s space on the floor. It takes 3½ minutes to circle through once without stopping to look at anything.

Then, of course, there are the monstrous video displays and presentations. Exhibitors build these massive, multi-screen theaters to demonstrate and promote their new technologies. They play high-budget, masterfully-produced segments that are designed to entice you in, engage your senses, and push your emotional buttons. It works. This video on our YouTube channel captures clips from just three of these presentations from Microsoft, Samsung, and LG. Just look at how happy these devices make people. Walking the expo floor is like walking from one reality distortion field to the next.

The highlights for me? My favorite product: Ceton’s preview of a multi-room entertainment platform that Windows Media Center users should feel right at home with. My least favorite: Logitech’s Cube that isn’t really cubic and purports to revolutionize the mouse (one word: ergonomics). My favorite product that has nothing to do with home media: The Windoro robotic window washer.

As the show came to a close, I joined a small group of onlookers watching Gary Shapiro, at Engadget’s interview stage, as he broke the news that this was their biggest show ever with over 153 thousand attendees. Two things struck me there.

First…WOW. As our economy continues to struggle, the technology sector bucks trends and pushes forward…often times growing despite lower disposable income. The expo floor is a whole lot of ground to cover, and most attendees likely only see a small fraction of the exhibitors. Indeed, with appointments and events taking up most of my calendar, I’m lucky if I can say that I was able to stop and look at even 100 of these exhibitor’s wares. Rather than write about everything that interested me, I’ve shared a gallery of captioned photos that should give you an idea of what I found most interesting. And of course, we’ve all been writing and talking about the things we’ve found most newsworthy at this year’s show.

But perhaps more importantly, it wasn’t big media that first heard and shared Shapiro’s news—the big four networks and major publishing outlets were nowhere to be found when Shapiro shared the attendance numbers. Instead, he broke the news with Engadget—once a scrappy little tech blog that’s now considered a leading source for technology and consumer electronics news. In fact, my live tweet probably hit your feeds before big media even knew about it.

I can’t stress enough how big a change this is and how important it is. We know the face of media is changing, and we see big media losing ground to blogs and other Internet resources. There are more outlets than ever for consumers to learn about news and technology, and fundamental shifts like this reinforce why we do what we do here at The Digital Media Zone.

I’ll wrap with this thought: People continue to ask, “does the Consumer Electronics Show still matter?” Half of the things we see at CES never make it to homes or store shelves. And with Microsoft leaving CES, companies crafting their own media buzz, and the Internet offering companies immediate promotion and communication channels, do we still need CES? Do they?

I say yes. I’d throw some expletives in there if I wouldn’t have to edit them out later. CES is a connections venue—it affords vendors, manufacturers, distributors, and resellers an opportunity to meet efficiently and in a controlled environment. And it gives the press an opportunity to learn and inform consumers about technology trends and promises. People meet and talk. They engage and establish relationships. Businesses gain exposure, deals get made, partnerships form, and consumers learn. How is this not good? How is this not important? Yes, CES is still relevant and necessary. Perhaps now that we’ve become so used to virtual, asynchronous communication, it’s even more important to actually meet people and see things in person.

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