Well it’s been 24 very busy hours in the world of technology trade shows.
CES moves forward
After a long pause, the folks at CES finally opened up registration for their in-person show this coming January. Registration for the show usually comes in early summer, but of course the world is a bit different and I think there were still decisions being made.
In order to be in-person at the show, you will need to show proof of vaccination, although it’s still not clear if you’ll need to submit that in advance. Equally unclear is whether all vaccinations will be considered equally. This isn’t a medical blog and I won’t go too far into that. Not all vaccines are equally effective, and not all governments have the same definition of “fully vaccinated.” Will the show take that into account? How will they validate proof of vaccinations from dozens of different countries? Will people be required to list their country on their ID badges so that discriminating attendees can choose (or choose not) to get close to some people and not others? Is that even a just and fair thing to do?
All I can say is I’m glad I’m not the one figuring this out.
Still, I do commend the folks at CES for taking steps to keep people safe and it looks like as we stand today, there’s no plans to take the show online-only as they did this year. That’s good, because you might recall I was a little harsh when I discussed the ’21 show.
This banner was up on the National Association of Broadcasters site this morning. It reads,
To our Show community, with the best interests of the industry in mind, we are saddened to announce that we have made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s event.
We look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 23-27, 2022.
That’s it. The rest of the site is unchanged. You can even still register for the show. I would have to imagine that things will be updated in the next few days, based on this news.
This was really surprising to me. NAB, traditionally held in April, was one of the first trade shows to shut down in the spring of 2020. They moved the show to the fall in the hopes that it could be put on safely. Although they never publicly took steps like requiring vaccinations, I know that there were many industry insiders still planning to attend.
Shot in the foot for ATSC 3.0?
ATSC 3.0, the nascent next-generation broadcast standard, is the real loser here. It’s becoming ever less likely that this standard will ever be widely approved, and certainly less likely that they will meet the 2025 goal that was once floated by the FCC.
No, ATSC 3.0 didn’t need the NAB show to exist. Plans can still continue for testing and we can still hopefully see some move toward affordable consumer hardware. But without a platform and a time to promote it, it’s harder and harder to see where this technology will go.
Does the future look bright?
Longtime readers of this blog will know that I’ve become less enthusiastic about trade shows as the years have gone on. New technologies launch all the time without massive trade shows. It’s obvious now. We don’t have to be in the same place to get business done. For better or worse, the days of trade shows as big orgy-like parties are gone. So it really raises the question of why these shows need to exist.
Clearly they don’t. There’s no great paralysis in the consumer electronics industry because the lack of a show this year. (It may be hamstrung by global chip shortages, but that’s not CES’s fault.) In fact I’ve not read one article about any industry decimated after a canceled convention. OK, one. The trade show industry isn’t doing very well. I’ll give them that. But no one else seems to really be worrying about it.
I hope that the organizers of technology trade shows look at the lessons of 2020 and 2021 and come out stronger. But if they don’t, if this is the last gasp for the mega-trade-show world, so be it.