CES 2021: It begins

We’re a little less than a month from the traditional start of the CES show, and of course things are going to be different this time. The folks at the Consumer Technology Association waited until July to announce that their show would be all-digital this year. They waited until last week to open up registrations. And now, they’re giving us some idea what the show will look like.

They’re pushing the keynotes like crazy

Honestly I’ve never been much of a keynote guy. I don’t go in for the long speeches. I’m sure they’re all good, but it’s just not why I go to the show. This year, with no show floor to speak of, the show people are pushing the keynotes like there’s no tomorrow.

If you look at their home page, you’ll see huge amounts of space devoted to the keynote speeches, as well as seven pages of short speeches. Unlike previous years, any registered attendee can attend any session for free. Of course they can, since there’s no worry about running out of seats. Heck, I might even go to one or two.

Is there hope for the show floor?

At the moment, CTA have published a list of exhibitors. There are fewer than 800, meaning if I remember correctly about 80% of exhibitors from last year have opted out. You can’t really do anything at this point but look at the names and a few logos.

It looks from a quick perusal that the Asian manufacturers are pretty much all staying home. The giant pavilion filled with unknown names was always great, but without products to put front and center, I understand why they’re not bothering.

It’s not clear as of yet as to whether there will be any sort of “show floor” experience. I had held out hope — I still do — that there will be some sort of virtual reality experience, where you peruse through booths in a comfortable way, possibly even interacting with exhibitors directly through the computer as if you’d just wandered by.

I have to say that if we haven’t seen any evidence of that with the show three weeks away, it’s not very likely. What’s more likely is that we’ll get something like CEDIA Expo. That show had an interactive exhibitor list where each exhibitor got a page to decorate. The result was more 2000s MySpace than anything else. Let’s hope that the few exhibitors who are participating in CES can do a little better.

Looks like most of my coverage won’t fly

Every year, I revel in giving you updates on how different parts of the show have grown or shrunk. I show you this year’s spate of giant TVs, dancing TVs, or multi-colored designer TVs. I tell you who should have stayed home, and I relentlessly pick on the media-focused C Space which is always practically empty.

This year I don’t think I’ll get much opportunity to do that, but I will be covering the show as well as I can. Who knows, with this newly-level playing field, perhaps I’ll do just as well as some of those better-staffed web sites. This could end up being the best year ever for my coverage. Who knows… you’ll just have to come back here and see.

The CES show, whatever it ends up being, runs January 11-14, 2021.

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.