The big tech show is not dead, but it needs to change

By on January 14, 2012
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CES and GITEX are not of a dying breed, but not far from it.

The 2012 edition of the Consumer Electronics Show just got over in Las Vegas. CES was first held in 1967, and it certainly has changed over the years. But is it getting too big? Is it not worth the big bucks anymore that companies pay to exhibit there?

For CES in 2011, 140,000 visitors, 30,000 from outside the U.S., flocked to Vegas to take in all the latest in consumer technology and gadgets. That’s a lot of people in one place, even in a city like Las Vegas, which is basically built on tourism.

I’ve been fortunate to attend a few CES spectacles as a reporter, and I can tell you that it is backbreaking work; from early morning press-tours to late-evening parties, and interviews and press conferences in between. Sounds glamorous? It’s not, I can tell you. There’s just too much to cover and you fight desperately to try to filter things and decide what to write about.

But that’s a topic for another day. By all accounts, CES 2012 was a huge success and the usual websites, magazines etc. reported from Vegas with fever-pitch frenzy.  I saw a tweet the other day from a reporter, which said something like “we posted more than 100 stories today from CES.” That’s just crazy.

But there is that much – and more – to report on, and that’s sort of the problem. For big companies, like Intel, it’s a chance to stand out, but spending, presumably, millions of dollars on CES must be giving them reason to pause and think whether it’s worth it. For small companies, I can only see it being worth it, if they have something really spectacular to show off that every news outlet will pick up.

And then you have citizen-journalism. Being away from CES this year, I’ve picked up so much news via tweets and other social media messages from individuals at the show- regular visitors and not professional reporters. That, I think, will have a more profound change on these shows more than anything.

Although CES is a spectacular show I believe the future is in smaller, more frequent and directed events. Apple has realized that- one reason why they dumped MacWorld Expo in 2009, and Microsoft has as well, making this CES its last. Now we’re just waiting for the rest to catch up.

And that also goes for GITEX in Dubai, although that’s a different beast altogether as it relies much more on enterprise tech and CES is obviously focused on consumers. However, I would suspect we could ask many of the same questions about GITEX as we do about CES. One thing I have to say to the GITEX organizers is that you have to catch up with the times and realize that social media can make or break you.

Photo by VentureBeat.


I write and talk too much about tech. You can find my personal blog at, my radio shows at, and me on Twitter as mnystedt.

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