CES 2020 Preview

The CES show has been the go-to place for new tech since it started in 1967. Personally I’ve been going to the show almost every year since 2006. I think the 2010 or 2011 show was probably the pinnacle, and the show spent most of the ’10s trying to be too many things to too many people. The last few years have seemed smaller and tighter. Although the Consumer Technology Association (who runs the show) keeps claiming it’s the largest show ever, that might not be actually true. It sure hasn’t felt true.

For about a generation, CES has been defined by its displays of very large TVs. Will this year’s show finally break away from that mold? We’ll find out when the doors open on Tuesday, January 7.

Central Hall: Where the media coverage is

As in previous years, expect the big media action to be centered around the names in the Central Hall. That’s where you’ll find Samsung, Sony, Intel, LG, and others. They’re usually joined by other tech-forward names like Roku and newer manufacturers like TCL.  When you watch the CES coverage from home, this is where they’ll be standing.

It’s also, in a lot of ways, the most boring part of the show. You won’t find a lot of innovation here, just rehashes of the same stuff from last year, packaged a little differently.

South Hall: Where the real show happens

The South Hall is where you’ll find much smaller manufacturers, and that’s where the real show takes place. That’s where the backroom deals happen and where you see real innovation. It’s where we saw the foldable phone last year, and where we expect to see a lot more cellular accessories this year. It’s an exciting place to be.

South Plaza: A tent full of promise

The South Plaza, as it’s called, is home to the Chinese manufacturers for the second straight year. It’s a massive tent that houses hundreds of vendors, all of whom get this one chance to make their mark. While the Chinese vendors aren’t always the most innovative, they are certainly the most entertaining as they put a new twist on today’s electronics

North Hall: It’s like a car show

North Hall ought to be called the Las Vegas Auto Show. You’ll find pavilions from almost every major carmaker. It’s been a launchpad for several new electric vehicles over the years as well. We spend more and more of our lives in our cars and cars have become increasingly complex. It makes sense to devote so much space to them.

…and the rest

The whole city seems to light up with CES fever. You’ll find international innovations at the Sands Expo and Venetian, product showcases at the Westgate as well as the lightly attended “C Space” at the Aria. The first days should be filled with excitement, but I bet by Thursday it’s going to look pretty empty

Has CES outlived its usefulness?

Absolutely not. The public-facing part of the show may get smaller and smaller but there’s still a lot of business that gets done here. Most of it’s behind closed doors. The flashy displays may get the public’s attention, but CES is really about business and that’s why it’s going to survive.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.