In just a few days, the largest tech show in North America opens its doors. You may remember that the CES show was 100% virtual in 2021, and this year’s show marks the return of the exhibit floor for the first time in two years. But will anyone come?
The Covid situation
The folks at CES have published their guidelines for attending. All attendes must provide proof of vaccination, which for their purposes means two doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a vaccine like J&J/Janssen. Boosters aren’t required.
Masks won’t be required inside, because all CES venues conform to something they call GBAC Star accreditation. They claim this means they’ll be cleaning and filtering and all that, to make sure everyone is healthy.
But will people attend?
If you’d asked me a month ago, I would have said that I had no doubt there would be enough attendance. Now I’m not so sure. I have a feeling that international participation may be limited, because there are some countries that are starting to require 3 shots in order to come into the country. If you don’t have your 3rd shot yet, you could be stuck in the US unable to return to your home country. At the same time, there are parts of the world where restrictions are getting tighter and tighter, and where travel isn’t advised. I think there are still countries that don’t allow travel to the US, even though the US now allows travelers into the country with proof of vaccination.
We’ve already seen a lot of large vendors bail, and I have a feeling that even more have quietly decided not to come. That means the “virtual” exhibit hall is as important as it was last year. Unfortunately it’s not expected to be any better than last year.
In past years, I’ve been very skeptical of the attendance numbers that the CES folks have published. There were clearly far fewer people on the floor in 2020 than there were in 2015 but you have the CES people saying 2020 was the biggest show ever. I wouldn’t be surprised if they claim over 100,000 attendees for the ’22 show but I won’t believe them. I think the real number will be under 45,000.
Enough of that
But come on. That’s not why you read this article. You want to know what’s really going on at CES. At least some of the the big, splashy Central Hall displays will be there, as will some of the automotive stuff that’s been in North Hall in the past. Overall, though CES seems to have evolved away from its original mission of showcasing “consumer electronics.” If you look at their home page, none of the featured exhibitors are really consumer electronics companies, with the possible exception of Nikon.
CES has grown to encompass pretty much all emerging technology, and a lot of that tech is very specialized. The days when you could just walk up and down the halls and geek out over the things you wanted to buy are largely over. I think the show today is a very different animal. It’s not really as drool-worthy and that’s a problem.
Personal + virtual
CES organizers are billing this as a hybrid event. The exhibit hall will be there, but all the keynotes and panels will be both in-person and virtual. Last year’s virtual events weren’t nearly as bad as I thought they would be, and it is nice that anyone can attend.
Last year’s big flaw was the virtual exhibit floor, which reminded me of 2005-era MySpace. By having a real show floor this year, that won’t be an issue. And, with the long-awaited West Hall now open, this should have bee the biggest show under one roof, ever. There certainly will be enough space, but it still remains to be seen who shows up. I do think the you’ll see stuff at the Venetian and Sands Expo halls. Still, it seems like you’ll be able to see more than ever without getting in a bus or taxi.
We’ll be there, at least a little bit
Right now the plans are for a small contingent of The Solid Signal Blog team to be on the show floor reporting on our impressions. It seems like few of our preferred vendors will be on site, and as far as I know they won’t have any major introductions. So we’ll focus on the general impression of the halls and how it’s all working.
I am fairly sure that due to contracts and whatnot, this will not be the last CES. Still, it’s an important one. The show organizers need to prove that the massive expense of an in-person show is worth it. They will have to work hard to make it happen. I’m rooting for them, even as I’m pretty cynical about their ability to pull it off. I guess we’ll find out on January 5 when the show opens.