Mario Orazio /
02.14.2012 08:04 AM
Is CES on Life Support, Down for the Count?

Somewhere out there… You might have noticed that some folks are questioning the relevance of the Consumer Electronics Show, aka CES.

The rap is that innovation is no longer happening in the teevees and stereos that members of the Consumer Electronics Association, aka "See-Ya," are flogging.

This has, according to these critics, has resulted in the growth of "MOSS," which, politely put, stands for "more of the same stuff."

When the first Consumer Electronics Show was mounted in 1967, in New York, See-Ya was called the Electronics Industries Association, or EIA. Its members, many of whom are no longer with us, manufactured the aforementioned teevees and stereos that, in 1967 and for some time thereafter, were where innovation in consumer electronics was happening.

Old-timers, or middle-timers, will remember that there usta be two—count 'em two—CES shows a year. This began in 1978, with the Winter Consumer Electronics show being held in January in Las Vegas, and the Summer Consumer Electronics Show held in June in Chicago.

This lasted until 1994, after which the Summer show, waning in popularity, began travelling to various cities around the United States. In 1998, See-Ya began the current practice of having only the January show in Las Vegas. Fourteen years later, there are those wondering if CES will stay viable much longer.


In spite of the fact that CES is gargantuan, the largest trade show in the Americas, with 2012 attendance at 153,000 and exhibitors numbering 3,100, no major product announcements or introductions were made at the latest show, as was recent custom.

Here are just a few of the consumer electronics devices that weren't introduced at CES recently: Apple iPhone, Apple iPad, Microsoft Kinect, Amazon Kindle Fire.

CES has become so enormous that these kinds of announcements can get swallowed up in the general background roar. So companies that are introducing major innovations to the electronics gadget field prefer to make their own announcements, independently of CES.

HP stopped exhibiting at CES in 2009, and Microsoft has announced 2012 was its last year at the show. And that ain't all.


In 2012, the Adult Entertainment Expo (AEE), which has traditionally overlapped the CES, was held later in the month. As a New York Times story headline put it, "Silicon and Silicone Split, as C.E.S. and Adult Entertainment Expo Part Ways." I am not making this up.

The Adult Entertainment Expo had originally been part of CES, which wasn't all that surprising, considering the contribution that pornography made to the demand for VCRs in their early days. So the porn companies began exhibiting at CES, but were frequently consigned to a basement or even a tent, which motivated them to form the AEE as a separate event, which coincided with the CES. Now, they have forsaken CES to go off on their own.

Adding to all this, the electronics retailers who depend on CES to see new products and to place orders are losing ground to the Apples and Amazons of the world who sell direct to consumers, and much of those sales happen online.

In the 1980s, not many broadcasters regularly attended CES, but this changed when HDTV and innovations in advanced display technology and home theater started happening in the late 1990s. Now, although advanced display technology is still advancing—for example with OLED displays—the HDTV market is pretty well approaching saturation.

And believe Mario when he tells ya that nobody cares about 3DTV. Broadcasters, still reeling from economic downturn and general industry changes are attending CES less frequently again. And, of course, nobody needs CES to tell them about the latest tablets and smartphones, do they?

Mario has seen predictions that CES will be history after 2015. Although See-Ya will try its dadburndest to see that this doesn't happen, Mario thinks it is possible that it will.

Mario Orazio is the pseudonym of a well-known television engineer who wishes to remain anonymous. E-mail him at

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Posted by: Anonymous
Wed, 02-15-2012 10:33 AM Report Comment
Mario, your facts are a bit off. They were the RTMA or Radio and Televison Manufacturers Asscoiation in 1967 that put on the first show in the NY Hilton. CES did NOT travel around the country for some years post the Chicago show though it was discussed. The main attraction of the show is networking and doing business in what is close to a $175Bn market in the US. Like many industries while the sizzle of new products and technologies is great, the meat is this large volume of business that is being conducted and the participants need to meet and talk. While the press and media may have less to discuss, the makers, developers and resellers always have a need. Technology will continue to evolve and there is no guarantee that it will ONLY come from giant firms that do not need CES or want to spend to separate themselves, but the need to network will remain, and this remains the platform as the creator Jack Wayman proposed; a show where a low cost ten by ten display can get you in front of a world of decision makers. Show size may go up and down, but the need remains. This is a TRADE show not a press event or a consumer one. Many major brands have gone off the show floor only to return when it served the need. Are you saying innovation is done? Do we see all the other many trade shows going away? I do not see clothing and accessory shows gone even if there s just MOSS there.
Posted by: Anonymous
Tue, 03-06-2012 02:47 PM Report Comment
I recall a time when it was unthinkable that Comdex could ever end. And I just got an email from a friend who covered all he needed to report on at CEBIT this year in a day (instead of the usual three). Could CES be a dead show walking? I think it's entirely possible. It is following much of the same trajectory as COMDEX and PC Expo; they too were giant "trade shows" for dealers that ended up relying on consumer attendees to fill the halls, which was not profitable for the exhibitors and so they left. The shifting retail landscape is the biggest factor; Amazon, Best Buy, and Costco do not need CES to know which products to carry. Alfred Poor HDTV Almanac
Posted by: Anonymous
Tue, 03-06-2012 03:08 PM Report Comment
When the customer knows more than the manufacturer (because they tweeted, texted, or browsed 10 seconds ago), the ONLY points for the major trade shows are: 1. VEGAS baby VEGAS 2. Free booze and food 3. All my friends are there. Don't believe me? Review the major mfgs that have pulled out of major trade shows recently. The latest I recall is Extron out of Digital Signage (?). Their Reason??? Money better spent elsewhere. Follow the money - when you browse they know whose eyeballs are peepin' and can track you down - that's where the money went. NOT into a high power transmitter projecting into the nefarious ether NOR rubber necked glad handing and masked smiles at an alien spaceport (Vegas). "If you don't exist in cyberspace - you DON"T exist!" Baron von Munchausen

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