Does CES Matter Anymore?

Does CES Matter Anymore?


This week, about 150,000 attendees, exhibitors, journalists, bloggers, and industry analysts are converging on Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), one of the biggest trade shows in North America. But CES has rarely delivered on its promise to provide a peek at the future, and most of the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center show floor is instead given over to an endless sea of televisions, automotive doodads, and pointless electronic gadgets. Does this show even matter anymore?

My compatriots in the press and blogger pools will argue that it does, often via the excruciating live blog format, though one senses more than a hint of desperation as they highlight minute differences between numerous me-too products as if each were the Second Coming. To be fair, those who aren't attending are likewise trying to justify their own decisions about the show.

Hence this article. I'm not attending CES, though I did for many years. But I have what I think is a good reason: There is absolutely no point in going to Las Vegas for this show and trying to manufacture excitement from the uninteresting. The biggest companies that I cover—Microsoft, of course, but also Apple, Google, and several others—have either minimal or no official CES presence at all. They all announce and release products on their own schedules. Others, like Lenovo and other PC makers, do make announcements at CES, but they also pre-brief the press about these products.

Looking back on 2013's CES, the biggest announcements (such as they were) included such blockbuster products as BlackBerry 10, the Razor Edge tablet PC, the Sony Xperia Z smartphone, and various Smart TVs, 3D TVs, and 4K TVs by virtually every company in or near Asia.

The trouble for TV makers—indeed, for many makers of various gadgets—is that everyone who wants a TV already has one. Sales of TVs in the United States and worldwide fell year-over-year in 2013 and have been flat for years. And it's getting hard to differentiate, while less than 1 percent of TV sales in 2013 were for the ultra-high definition 4K variety because there's simply no content available.

One wishes Apple would break out of its product release cycle rut and just announce its long-expected TV or iWatch, if only so we could retroactively accuse Samsung of copying them once again. (Samsung already sells both types of devices.) Oh, the hilarity.

But if you're interested in whether anything of interest actually happens at CES, I will of course be selectively covering a handful of announcements and reviewing the better new devices that debut at the show. I can do that without having to step foot in Las Vegas, and that is perhaps the best part of my job. For both me and you.

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