There's been a lot of backlash against CES of late. Indeed, many wonder why there needs to be a single big trade show that often focuses on vaporware products that aren't out yet, or one that won't feature major players like Apple (and next year, Microsoft) with any official presence at all.
Much of the complaining has come from the media, members of which must somehow shove their way past 150,000 attendees to make it from one press event to another, often missing a key announcement because it took so long to get from point A to point B in the massive Las Vegas Convention Center. Since the press contingent is the party with the loudest voice, the negative publicity recently circulating seems more slanted than it really is. The fact is that the industry needs CES.
Maybe Apple doesn't, which schedules its own media events, as does Microsoft, Intel (the keynote speakers at this year's CES) HP, Samsung and other tech giants. Sure, online press announcements are more convenient to a media pool that's spread out all over the country, and almost anyone would rather report from their easy chair than at a dreary 8AM "breakfast announcement" after a long night of Las Vegas.
But if you're a buyer for a retail chain, what's better than seeing and touching the products that will make or break you later in the coming year? If you're a manufacturer wanting to introduce an innovative new technology, why wouldn't you do it in front of the biggest possible captive audience, and be able to shake hands and explain your product to said buyers? And if you're a big manufacturer like Sony, Panasonic or Sharp, why wouldn't you use this mega event -- with the eyes of the world upon it -- to trumpet the market-changing innovations you plan on bringing to market soon?
The fact is that CES is a trade show, not a glamour parade. Consumer electronics is often a glamorous industry to be sure, but the enormous proliferation in recent years of tech reporting, tech pundits, tech talking heads, tech analysts, tech bloggers, ad nauseum, has given us a skewed view of what this show is supposed to be. For them, anyway.
Of course, the essence of this debate goes further than just a trade show -- it's actually representative of a real shift in how these products are bought and sold these days. If you've ever bought electronics from a web site instead of a brick and mortar retail store, you already know this question well. Does seeing/holding/touching a product in person make for a more compelling shopping experience than seeing a picture on your screen? How many of us have walked into a Staples or the like, chose the printer (or router, camera, etc.) that we liked, and *then* went and purchased it online -- usually for less money? First hand experience is still -- arguably -- more valuable than virtual experience.
Attention grabbing negative headlines to the contrary, CES is where the action is, and by the end of the show, we'll undoubtedly find that it's been the biggest one ever -- yet again. Check back here during the 10th-13th to hear what the industry will have in store for us, this year and beyond.