A few years ago, as this industry and its main event, International CES, were both changing, I suggested in a column that producer/owner the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) might eventually change the name to the “Consumer Technology Show.”
Well, thanks to all the innovative products the CE industry has introduced in the past 20 or so years and the work of CEA to open the tent to other related industries, everyone knows what”CES” means, and “CTS” never had a chance.
CES has become almost a household name. Seemingly everyone is an expert in the industry and in trade shows. Except most everyone isn’t.
I mention this because on the eve of the show, CEA and Microsoft announced that the technology giant would not do the kickoff keynote on the eve of the 2013 CES.
In short order, digital and print pundits began to predict the demise of CES due to: Microsoft’s keynote exit, the fact that Apple and Amazon don’t debut products at the show, that COMDEX got too big died and CES is following suit, and (my favorite) few new products debut at the show anymore.
Then guess what happened? The 2012 edition of CES was the largest in its history, with a record number of attendees (153,000), exhibitors (31,000) and show floor space (1.861 million net square feet of exhibit space). And CEA said that more than 20,000 new products were launched at CES, representing innovation and, at the very least, plenty of commerce.
How did that happen in a world economy that can best be described as being in a malaise?
First off, as I mentioned earlier, CEA has opened its tent to related industries dating back to when Bill Gates first became a CES keynoter 14 years ago. Since then, the computer industry and chip makers began exhibiting.
And in the time leading up to the digital TV transition, the broadcasting and cable industries began to attend, along with the entertainment industry in all its forms.
With all the regulatory battles that always take place between hardware and software industries, politicians from the federal, state and international governments began to take notice and flock to Vegas.
This year the automobile industry, which has been to CES in the past couple of years, had six of its major manufacturers in attendance due to all the crossover technologies being used between cars, home and mobile devices.
Also this year the health care industry had a major presence at CES, and PMA became part of the show (although major digital camera makers were always around). And I didn’t even mention all the tablet and smartphone makers, as well as mobile carriers, in attendance.
International CES is still the place to be for plenty of companies, both large and small, for no other reason than to prove they’re serious about technology.
In a world where economic growth is tepid at best and there are still plenty of industry challenges, that is saying a lot about the strength and longevity of this annual January event in Las Vegas.