The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is one of the largest technology trade shows in the world. Close to 129,000 people attended the event in 2011, though the question this year, as Microsoft makes its final appearance, is whether or not CES has lost its relevancy in the world of tech. Most of the content unveiled at CES is leaked prior to the event, and the crowded halls are only so helpful to reporters trying to get any hands-on time with the latest gadgetry.
CES is considered to be a kickoff of technology we can expect in the consumer market over the next year. Over the years, CES has played host to some of the biggest products of the year. These products range from media standards such as Blu-ray to upcoming products such as 3D televisions and tablet computers. Bill Gates, the founder and former CEO of Microsoft, even announced his retirement during the CES keynote in 2008.
That said, much has changed over the years since the first CES was held in June of 1967. The once seasonal show (held twice a year) gradually evolved into a yearly showcase held each January in Las Vegas, NV. Much of the flair and draw of the trade show has been downplayed by active Internet coverage that frequently reports on announcements being made at the show before it even happens. After all, leaks are one of the few things you can count on in the tech industry… unless you’re Apple, Inc.
Here are several reasons that CES may be losing its relevancy in a modern age.
Most Big Product Announcements are Repetitive
Did you hear? Panashiba is announcing an Ultrabook this year. Well, Panashiba (a made-up company) and fifteen other manufacturers. Over the past few years, the product announcements being made at these trade shows seem to be more and more repetitive. Last year, 3D televisions and tablets were all the rage. The year before that, netbooks and other low-cost PCs. A couple years before that it seemed everyone had either a Blu-ray or HD-DVD player to announce. Yes, we get it. Competition is a good thing, and few trade shows make it more apparent that competition is alive and well than CES.
Tech media outlets all over the Web will inevitably call 2012 the year of the Ultrabook as it seems every PC manufacturer has an Ultrabook to display this year. Do you know how I know this? See the next point.
Leaks Ruin the Surprise
A week before CES 2012 started, we knew that Ultrabooks were going to be the big highlight of the show. Last year, it was pretty much the same story with whatever it was that was announced then. Media no longer exists on a 9-5 schedule. Consumers will never again have to wait for a magazine to be published or a newspaper to print to find out everything they need to know about what’s happening at an event being held a few days later.
Only a handful of companies are very good about keeping secrets, and they don’t typically announce products at CES. Apple, Inc. has actually had a competing event in January that has even been held back-to-back with CES. In January of 2007, Apple announced the iPhone — a breakthrough new device that dwarfed anything announced at CES that year in terms of sales and overall media hype.
CES Isn’t for Consumers
Even though the word “consumer” is first and foremost in the title of the event, CES isn’t exactly a great place for consumers. CES is about showing the world what your company has to offer in a place that’s jam packed with journalists, bloggers, and other media types that are tasked with sharing that information with the world. CES itself isn’t as much for the fans of these products as it is for other members of the tech industry.
Think about it this way. BlizzCon is for the user. There are tournaments, announcements, games, contests, and a wide variety of exclusive merchandise you can take home with you to show your friends and family just how geeky you are. CES is a great place to go and find out about the latest gadget, its specs, and perhaps get some hands-on time with each device as you make your way through the giant expo hall. The difference between the two is clear. CES is meant to be informative and BlizzCon is meant to be fun.
Unless you actively work in the tech industry as either a developer, inventor, manufacturer, journalist, or marketing guru, there isn’t much for you to really take away from CES. Well, that and the fact that CES isn’t open to the public.
As for the consumer part of CES, that comes into play through the coverage of the media and ultimately the products themselves as they become available to the general public. The real benefit of CES for consumers comes from not attending the event, but by sitting back and reading the various tech sites out there covering key announcements as they are made.
CES is Expensive
While attending CES may be free if you register by a certain time, the air fare, ground transportation, lodging, and other accommodations needed to attend the event certainly aren’t. Industry members rarely attend without some form of corporate sponsorship either within their own company or via a third-party sponsor with a shared interest in being seen at the event.
CES itself may be relevant to organizations that wish to make connections and build relationships on a more face-to-face level, and for that reason it may be worth the price of attending. For the vast majority of tech bloggers and lower-level industry members, the trek just might prove to be more of a waste of time.
Press Conferences Are Covered Ad Nauseam
If there is one thing you can count on, it’s CES coverage. Virtually every tech blog online today is typing out at least one or two articles about CES products, predictions, and other random thoughts as CES continues.
The trick to making your blog even better is coming up with content that is both original and useful to the reader. That’s a hard thing to do when you’re reporting on the same event 140,000 other industry professionals are also attending.
As for consumers, this means you’re going to see plenty of information online within seconds of CES opening its doors. Virtually anything and everything you need to know about any product featured at CES will be plastered across the Interwebs. The real trick is avoiding this coverage.