Las Vegas -- Ignoring lackluster holiday sales and a sluggish economy, 116,687 attendees flocked to International CES, here, topping 2002's 97,962 attendance and approaching 2001's 126,000 number, according to the show organizer's the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).
While the amount of attendees was surprising to many, it wasn't to CEA president/CEO Gary Shapiro, who predicted as much in his opening morning remarks: '[CES] is almost certain to be 2003's largest annual trade show of any type in America.'
The event featured more than 2,283 exhibitors, as well as a record 25 technology and product showcase pavilions, and will attract more than 10,000 international visitors from 128 countries, making CES 'the World Cup of Technology,' according to Shapiro.
Manufacturers and retailers who TWICE spoke with during CES were generally relieved that 2002 was over and that the new year has the potential to be a good one on the business side.
CES attendees took the long view and acknowledged the promise and excitement of such categories as HDTV and new types of video displays, recordable DVD decks and camcorders, home networking, mobile electronics, broadband, wireless technologies, digital imaging and a myriad of other products.
And the show drew top names in technology and government, from perennial CES eve keynoter, Microsoft's founder Bill Gates and first time show keynoter Sony Corp. president Kunitake Ando, among several top execs who spoke at the show, to FCC Chairman Michael Powell.
He topped a list of more than 100 government officials who attended CES to discuss such issues as copyright, spectrum management and broadband policy.
Despite the nation's economic recession, Shapiro said, industry factory sales last year were up an estimated 3.7 percent to a record $96 billion last year, and is forecast to approach the $100 billion mark in 2003.
The ongoing growth, Shapiro said, is being driven in part by three major technological areas: wireless, connectivity and digital.
Wireless, he stated, accounts for nearly $9 billion in hardware sales. While some feel wireless has hit a plateau, 'I believe this sector will grown in fits and starts as more people rely on it for many uses beyond voice transmission,' Shapiro said.
The current area where digital 'may be having the most immediate and decisive impact,' is video, Shapiro said, adding 'we sold over 2.5 million' HDTV units last year, well up from the projection of 2.1 million.'