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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