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CES Begins Before It Begins

CES News Breaks Before CES

Midway through what seems to be an all-day Continental Newark-to-Las Vegas flight, our pilot tells us that it is now colder in Vegas (38 degrees at 6 a.m. local time) than it was when I left my house in Brooklyn, a balmy 60 degrees or so. That’s never happened in all my trips to this show. Could that be a sign of things to come at CES?

Another thing that rarely, if ever, happens two or three days before CES is the release of major news that would normally break at the show:

* Warner revealed it has developed and will produce a hybrid HD DVD/Blu ray disc;

* LG, compelled by the Warner announcement, revealed in a few sentences that it will, after months of rumors, unveil a dual-format HD disc player. Details to come during its Sunday morning press event;

* LG reported it has hired a new marketing VP for CE;

* Philips reported it has hired a new sales VP for its CE business;

* Fujifilm announced its slate of new digital cameras to debut at CES;

* Best Buy created a new senior VP position to handle its consumer centricity program;

* Best Buy and Circuit City reported great holiday sales, while Tweeter’s performance is disappointing at best;

* Even the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), producer of International CES, couldn’t wait for its own show or press event to happen and revealed its annual industry sales report.

The question is why are companies making their CES announcements prior to CES? The easy guess on my part is that they want to avoid the tons of coverage the industry will receive starting this weekend.

CES In Flight & At The Gate

With CE products of all types, shades, prices and sizes becoming more ubiquitous in everyday life, you can’t help but avoid talk of the industry’s wares and its effects on other industries. A little while ago I was reminded of this when a fellow traveler on this flight offered me the Jan. 8 New Yorker magazine. I thought I’d read about politics, read some music or book reviews and escape from the CE onslaught we will all face in the next few days.

So what do I begin reading? Critic David Denby’s in-depth report on how digital technology, HDTV and handheld downloads of movies is changing the movie business. It is fascinating. Pick up a copy for your trip home.

While the news flow for CES now begins days before the show, one travel note that many of us CES veterans know: CES begins well before we reach the show floor, or even our hotel in Vegas. If you leave out of a New York area airport, once you get to your gate you see plenty of the familiar faces of the many CE manufacturers and retailers based here.

On this flight, along with TWICE’s Alan Wolf and TWICE CES DAILY freelance contributors David Elrich and Rebecca Day, there are members of the Sixth Avenue Electronics chain along with Sharp’s Bob Scaglione, Universal Remote’s Jon Sienkiewicz, Samsung’s Jonas Tannenbaum, the Plasma Coalition’s Jim Palumbo and probably more I execs I didn’t see. At the gate, and then in small groups during our flight, there are industry discussions going on as well as the exchange of pleasantries as we … oops begin to hit turbulence and are told to sit down.

To Absent Friends

Before I sign off I’d like to send out get well wishes to three industry friends who have been part of CES for a good many years who won’t be in Vegas with us. First off is Harry Elias, the veteran CE manufacturing exec, CE Hall of Famer and usually the most photographed member of the industry. He is on the mend and sends his regards. On the 40th anniversary of CES, this is the first one he’s ever missed. TWICE’s own senior editor Amy Gilroy couldn’t fly here due to illness, but is with us in spirit and online where she is following events here and at MacWorld. And finally Cynthia Upson, longtime public relations representative for CEA, is not in Las Vegas again this year due to illness. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.