Is This the Beginning of the End for CES?

By Katie Tully (@K_Tully)

The first CES was held in New York City in 1967 as a spin-off from the Chicago Music Show, which until then had served as the main event for exhibiting consumer electronics. Today, CES is one of the world’s most famous trade shows, featuring the top names in tech and innovation, even drawing in A-list celebrities.

So the question is: How did CES go from 17,500 attendees and 100 exhibitors to more than 153,000 attendees and 3,100 exhibitors?

The first thing to note is that CES has always managed to draw in the newest, fastest and most innovative technology; starting with the VCR in 1970, the camcorder in 1981, the XBOX in 2001 and the hottest tablets in 2011. This has been the key for CES’s outstanding growth – launching the top products that consumers are dying to get their hands on. The reality is that consumer electronics have become an integral part of our daily lives, ultimately providing some of the most interesting, exciting and compelling news.

When all this excitement is boiled down to one show every winter in Las Vegas, it’s almost unbelievable that celebrities haven’t always been on the top of the attendee list. Let’s be honest – just being in Vegas in January is enough to make you drop everything for a week, right?

So somewhere between compact discs and satellite radio, the attention expanded from tech experts and columnist to everyday people and famous names.  And when you have Justin Timberlake endorsing MySpace and Snooki live tweeting from the conference hall about her bedazzled line of headphones, it’s pretty difficult to avoid getting sucked in.

As we look ahead to CES in the future, many of us can’t help but wonder if it will turn into another SXSW where no stone is left unturned and the real focus of the show disappears in all the noise. Is CES becoming too big for its own good?

Maybe Apple’s refusal to attend has been the right move all along.


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