In what can only be considered to be a ringing endorsement of digital technology, the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held here Jan. 8 to 11, set records across the board.
While final attendance numbers will be reported in the spring after a third-party audit, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), producer of the show, said 129,328 CES attendees visited 2,491 companies in 1.38 million net square feet of exhibit space.
By comparison, the 2003 International CES had 117,704 attendees and 2,230 companies in 1.25 million net square feet of exhibit space. With executives from more than 110 countries, international attendance grew to 18,050, compared with 16,606 last year. CES continues to establish itself as the global marketplace for consumer technologies. "The innovation, phenomenal products, convergence of technologies, people and excitement were unprecedented," said Gary Shapiro, president/CEO of CEA in a prepared statement. "This era's technology is consumer electronics as leaders from IT, cable, broadcasting, entertainment, education, transportation and government converged in Las Vegas for CES."
Karen Chupka, events/conferences VP for CEA, commented. "The hotels were packed, the flights were full, and the exhibitors and attendees were thrilled. We are delighted that CES is the world's leading event for technology."
Technologies such as thin displays, imaging, mobile electronics, wireless, home networking and gaming, among many others, were the main draw. But for others, top industry executives, government officials both national and international, and entertainers also gave the show a further aura of glitz and glamour.
For instance there were keynote speeches and panel participation from such notables as: FCC commissioner Michael Powell, Microsoft's Bill Gates, Rob Glaser of RealNetworks, Brad Anderson of Best Buy, Carly Fiorina of HP, Michael Dell of Dell, Gerard Kleisterlee of Philips, Fumio Ohtsubo of Panasonic, Intel's Paul Otellini and many others.
In addition, Jay Leno, Alicia Keys, Toby Keith, Sheryl Crow, Dr. Dre, Ben Affleck, Joey Fatone, LeAnn Rimes and Buddy Guy (see photos above), among dozens of other entertainers performed or made presentations.
Among the featured speakers were CEA's Shapiro and chairman Kathy Gornik, president of Thiel Audio Products, who stressed the CEA's role in helping the industry grow though the expansion of its information, training, standards and government relations programs and the broadening of its membership.
The 2004 CES, the biggest ever, opened "precisely at a phenomenal intersection of history and technology," Shapiro stated. This is, he said, a global industry defining the future," and "changing how people work and how they play." The exhibitors "displaying their visions at CES reflect the global advances in the sound, vision and connectivity which did not even exist ten year ago."
With digital technology now defining our industry, Shapiro said, "One Digital World," was selected at this year's show theme, "reflecting how digital is becoming pervasive, shrinking our distances and enhancing our lives."
As for industry resolutions for the new year, Shapiro said, the first is "to simplify our products for consumers. One of CEA's best efforts, he said, has been with HDTV. "Our conferences, standards, public policy efforts and relentless promotion continue to pave the way for DTV's record-setting sales. But we can do more. And we must do better."
He stated that this year CEA will expand retail certification training to include audio, mobile electronics, home networking and digital TV and create a technology awareness program aimed at teenagers.
A second resolution "is to change the way that governments think about us and our products." The industry, Shapiro said, "faces the threat of a patchwork of laws regulating how our products can be made and how they can be recycled." CEA, he said, favors uniform national recycling laws that provide for the costs to be shared "among all affected groups," and are "flexible and based on sound science." There also are still unresolved issues related to consumer recording rights.
Gornik stressed the advantages of CEA membership, particularly for smaller affiliated businesses. CEA has "a tremendous resource pool available," to members, ready to assist "with everything from running a booth at CES, to making your voice heard in government, to holding a small press conference." Gornik noted that her company, Thiel, has drawn upon those resources.
CEA increased its membership by 10 percent last year, in part by broadening its scope. Industry "retailers are now eligible for regular membership and full membership benefits," Gornik said, and with the interest in HDTV high among broadcasters, CEA now has more broadcast networks as members than the National Association of Broadcasters."
As for the 2004 show, and what it means to the industry, CEA's Chupka put it this way, "the momentum created here at CES this week will help carry the industry forward in 2004 as we begin gearing up for the 2005 International CES," said Chupka.
"Already, 1,290 exhibitors have signed up for more than 1.27 million net square feet of space. We will continue to improve the show's infrastructure to support the growth of the International CES. By the 2005 International CES the Las Vegas monorail will be open, and CEA and Las Vegas officials already are planning how to make the 2005 show an even better experience."
For those who plan ahead, the 2005 International CES runs Jan. 6-9, in Las Vegas.
— Additional reporting by Bob Gerson