In a little over a week the International Consumer Electronics Show will open in Las Vegas, with all the spectacle and extravaganza one would expect from the city. An expo occupying 1.7 million square feet of space with an expected draw somewhere in the 140,000 range should be impossible to ignore, as the name ‘CES’ commands the gaze of the media and tech intelligentsia.
But, once again, CES won’t be the venue for any major updates or announcements from the industry set as most major manufacturers will wait for their own shows or smaller niche shows to announce updates.
Microsoft, once one of the major supporting poles of the CES ‘big-tent’, will be famously absent from the show this year. The company announced last year that the timing and cacophony of CES made for a poor venue to do major announcements; this was evident as Microsoft’s 2012 CES keynote announcements were piecemeal updates to the Xbox 360 and a preview of the Metro UI that was rehashed from earlier presentations.
This ‘phoned-in’ keynote by Microsoft wasn’t anything new — its most interesting products of the last few years weren’t announced venues other than CES.
Another consumer electronic behemoth, Samsung, is skipping launching the Galaxy S4 at CES — instead opting for February’s Mobile World Congress — but apparently showing off a ‘redesign’ at this year’s show. Nix Apple from the lineup, news of a next-generation of game consoles, a couple of prominent OEMs such as Hewlett Packard, at you are left with no news and all noise.
Rumour has it that NVIDIA will launch its Tegra 4 System on a Chip at CES. While this should be considered staple for a such a show the specs have already been leaked online and most products sporting the chip won’t be seen until Mobile World Congress a month later.
These days, the news cycle for product launches involves a carefully choreographed event with an audience of a few hundred tech journalists and analysts. 2012’s biggest products were launched this way: Microsoft’s Surface, the Nexus 7, and the iPhone 5 all had their own shows. NVIDIA and AMD both updated their non-end user oriented High Performance Computing (HPC) initiatives at their respective GPU Technology Conference and the AMD Fusion Developers Summit.
Technology analyst Rob Enderle, one of the prominent critics of the current state of CES believes the show is “out of date and out of place”.
“ [CES] used to be the show showcasing fall technology lines but it now comes too early for this for most vendors who won’t finalize those lines until May or June,” Mr. Enderle told Hardware Canucks.
“Many of the technology areas, like smartphones, have their own shows and an increasing number of vendors are following Apple’s example and doing their announcements at their own event rather than trying to be visible during a time when younger companies blast out announcements like machine guns,” he continued.
“CES is slowly becoming less relevant.”
Can the ‘big tent’ tech expo like CES survive in this era? Probably not. While there will always be a need for a prominent trade show so meetings can occur and partnerships can be formed (the Nexus 7 project was started after a CES meeting) the end of the mega-expo is nigh.
Instead of Microsoft, Qualcomm will be keynoting this year’s conference. While Qualcomm plays an important role in the mobile ecosystem as a top ARM chip supplier, the company and its CEO aren’t recognizable to the layperson.
Can Qualcomm and its CEO have the same draw as Microsoft and its Ballmer? At a smaller, more refined venue, yes but at a show that is trying to appeal to everything and everyone, no.
CES can survive as less of an expo and more of a scaled down venue for meetings. But until then it looks as if it’s going the way of COMDEX.
Tags: CES 2013