January 7-10, 2008, in Las Vegas, Nevada. I didn’t realize this until after the fact, but this year marked the 25th anniversary of my first visit to CES. CES has changed a lot in 25 years and sadly I don’t think it’s what it once was. Back in the 80’s, tens of thousands of independent retailers represented a large portion of the consumer electronics distribution channel. Manufacturers needed a show like CES to introduce new products to dealers, and decide what to carry for the coming year. You could actually see exhibitors taking orders from retailers in their booths. Today, a handful of national retailers represent the bulk of the market, and they expect private visits from the manufacturers to sell their lines. The cost of exhibiting at CES (or any show) has continued to rise, and with the consolidation of the market and the emergence of the internet, the value of exhibiting has shrunk. Today, the main job of CES is to generate industry buzz and serve as a press opportunity for the Consumer Electronics industry. Small, innovative companies have very little chance of elevating their message above the noise. As often as not, Mac World, successfully steals the entire news cycle from CES anyway.
Here are some of my favorite consumer gadgets and retail technology from the show: (more)