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Thoughts on CES

I just returned from my first trip to the Consumer Electronics show and thought I’d share some thoughts. This is an event that I’ve wanted to attend for years. My first trip was really sort of a shock, awe, and letdown campaign.

Shock – The sheer scope of this thing is incredible. You can’t escape it. Whether its the shuttle bus stops in front of every hotel, the presence of advertising absolutely everywhere, or the size and number of exhibit halls, it is a mammoth undertaking. I’ve been to two GOP conventions, the Iowa straw poll, two cable industry shows, and countless political conferences. Added together, I don’t think they equal the number of people in Vegas for CES. Someone told me (but I have not verified) that between 150,000 and 250,000 people descend on Vegas for the show. The GOP conventions were quoted as 15,000 delegates and 30,000 press for a total of 45,000. Cable’s big show draws around 15,000. They all seemed packed. This was insane.

Awe – The show has the latest and greatest gadgets. I’ve written about a bunch of them on CableTechTalk. You can read those posts here, here, here, here, here and here. My personal favorites had to be the MyVu personal video eyewear, the 3DV camera for gaming, the AnyPlay portable set-top box, DVD and DVR combo, and the Sonos home audio streaming system. If you’re a gadget freak, this is the show for you.

Letdown – The bad news about the show, and what nobody tells you, is how much garbage you have to sift through to get to the gems. For every one cool gadget, there are two places hawking batteries, three places pimping cases for every portable device and four places pushing iPod docks. If I never see another dog shaped, cat shaped, pig shaped, of giraffe shaped iPod dock again, it will be too soon.

The thing nobody tells you is how surreal the whole experience is. I’ve always known that the porn industry schedules its big show (The AVN Adult Entertainment Expo) at the same time. What they don’t tell you is that between porn stars, booth babes, and overweight geeky men, it’s very hard to tell who is there for what. It’s like a giant sea of guys who are absolutely geeked out – only you don’t know if they’re hot for the star of Debbie Does Everything or the latest duck shaped iPod dock.

The other thing to keep in mind is this is a trade show. Like any trade show, it wears thin after the first 36-48 hours – but it lasts four days. Even with four days, there is almost no way you can see everything on the show floor AND go to any of the panel discussions. I could have spent a lot more time doing either, but would have been completely unable to do both.

Would I do it all again if I had the chance? Probably. Would I try to blog it? If I was there for that reason, yes. But otherwise, absolutely not. Trying to squeeze in three to five posts a day on top of the panels and floor was a bit much. It can be done, but you need to get up early, stay up late, and do little else.

In all, it was a fun trip, but I wouldn’t want to do something like it more than once a year.

Written by Michael Turk