Tag Archives | Trade Shows

Has CES Outlived Its Usefulness?

As we are ready to close the book on yet another CES, and its  exhibitors and attendees pack their bags to make the trip home, it begs the question: Is CES even useful anymore? Is it a product of a bygone era in tech, now rendered nearly useless in this age of the 24-hour news cycle?

It’s a good question, and one that definitely is worthy of debate among the tech community at large.

In the interest of full disclosure, my first (and last) CES was in 2005, as part of the Betanews staff. I have to admit as a tech geek I was certainly excited. But upon getting there, I found myself more disappointed than anything: Looking for good stuff there seemed like something akin to searching for a needle in a haystack.

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Apple at CES? Not According to CES.

Apple CESIn a blog post reporting on a journalists’ dinner with Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Electronics Association, the Wall Street Journal’s Ben Charny reports that that Apple plans to attend the Consumer Electronics Show next January for “the first time in memory.” Big news! Except, as former Engadget editor-in-chief Ryan Block says, Shapiro said no such thing.

I was at the dinner, too, and there was much discussion of the question of whether Apple might ever exhibit at the show. But as Ryan says, Shapiro specifically said that the company hadn’t booked any space, and that it was too late for it to buy a large booth at next year’s show anyhow. If Charny found evidence that Apple is going to “attend” CES in any sense other than sending one or more staffers to Vegas to walk around the show floor and see what the competition is up to, it’s news to CES.

As for the WSJ’s headline–“Will Apple CEO Headline CES ’10?”–the answer would appear to be “It seems really unlikely.” Shapiro said that the CEA has invited Jobs to give a CES keynote for years, and that the Apple CEO has never expressed any interest in doing so.

I’m sure that CES would be ecstatic if Jobs suddenly agreed to keynote its event. But Shapiro said that CES likes keynotes which provide vision for the entire industry and which aren’t too self-promotional. Jobs keynotes, of course, are always profoundly Apple-centric (often snarking at other companies) and focused around products the company is about to release. And Apple decided to pull out of Macworld Expo in part because it didn’t like having to schedule product releases around somebody else’s trade show in early January.

As Apple said in its press release announcing it was saying goodbye to Macworld:

Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways.

That doesn’t mean that the chances of Apple taking a newfound interest in CES are zero. But they’re way, way less than those of the company spending the same money it would have invested in a major CES presence in its own event in the same general timeframe…

[UPDATE: The San Francisco Chronicle’s Ryan Kim, who was also at the dinner, not only chimes in but provides a transcript of Gary Shapiro’s comments about Apple and CES.]

[FURTHER UPDATE: The bit about Apple attending CES is now gone from the WSJ story, which now starts with a correction: “It is not clear whether Apple will attend the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show. This post previously stated that Apple would attend.” Seems to me that all evidence–such as Apple’s failure to book show space–still suggests that it’s not unclear, but unlikely, that it’ll be there.]

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Al Gore Opens His CTIA Keynote to the Press After All

Last week, PCMag.com’s Sascha Segan pointed out something unusual about former Vice President Al Gore’s keynote speech at next week’s CTIA Wireless phone trade show in Las Vegas: It wasn’t going to be open to the press, apparently at the request of Gore or his staff. It was a truly jarring bit of news. I’ve been attending tech trade shows for a couple of decades, and can’t remember a single other keynote that the media wasn’t invited to attend.

But it’s not just as a courtesy that we press people are normally let into such speeches–media coverage is one of the primary reasons why they exist. It’s impossible, for instance, to imagine a scenario in which Steve Jobs keynotes at Macworld Expo or Bill Gates ones at CES were anything but publicity extravaganzas designed to attract as much media attention as possible.

Also, as Segan pointed out, the auditorium where Segan pointed out would have been bulging with folks who could have blogged the event (with photos) from their phones if they chose. In the era of citizen journalism, the only way to truly keep journalists away from a speech would be to bar citizens from attending. You’d Gore–the co-founder of citizen-journalism TV channel Current, not to mention a former newspaper reporter–would understand that.

Besides, it’s not as if Gore hasn’t made plenty of remarks at tech-related events that were open to the media. I first saw him do so (via a special video) at the SIGGRAPH graphics show a couple of decades ago. And here’s fuzzy photographic proof that I’ve encountered him twice in the past five months alone (at the Web 2.0 Summit and Google’s Google Earth launch):

Al Gore at Web 2.0 Expo Al Gore at Google Earth Event

(Actually, come to think of it, maybe it’s photos like those that lead Gore to be publicity-shy.)

Anyhow, Gore has apparently thought better of the whole thing: the CTIA announced today that Gore will let members of the media into his talk after all. Good news. I’ll have left CTIA by the time he appears on April 3rd, but I’m happy for my fellow reporters–and, more important, for everybody out there who’d like to attend the conference but can’t, and will therefore rely on press coverage to learn what happened.

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T-Poll: Apple’s Macworld Expo Exodus

tpoll1So  Steve Jobs is skipping Macworld Expo this year, and the rest of Apple will skedaddle in 2010. You can argue that that’s bad for Apple fans–my friend Jason Snell, editorial director of Macworld (which is a surprisingly distant arm of IDG from the Expo that shares its name) does so cogently here. But there are others who are agreeing with Apple’s apparent stance that its customers might as well just head to an Apple Store. I see no consensus as of yet on the fallout from the pullout.

What say you? Time for a quick T-Poll…


A Brief YouTube History of the Steve Jobs Macworld Expo Keynote

drm-jobsI’m not sure if Steve Jobs spoke at the very first Macworld Expo back in 1985–it was held not too long before he was exiled from the company he co-founded. But when he returned to Apple in 1997, the modern era of the Jobs Macworld Expo keynote began. And I not only didn’t attend the first one, but practically went out of my way to skip it: It was held a few hundred yards from where I was working in Boston at the time, and I couldn’t be bothered to walk over. (That’s a sign of just how down Apple was at the time--I was first wowed by a Jobs demo when he showed off the Lisa to the Boston Computer Society in the early 1980s, and his NeXT demo for the BCS, which filled Boston’s Symphony Hall, remains the single most memorable Jobs presentation I’ve witnessed in person.)

[CORRECTION, 1/27/13: I’m not sure why I wrote in this piece that Jobs gave the Lisa demo at the BCS; I was never certain that he had, and I eventually confirmed that it was given by Apple’s John Couch. It may have not had Jobs, but it was still dazzling.]

I’ve been to plenty of Jobs Macworld Expo keynotes since that 1997 one, and if they’re indeed a thing of the past I’m going to miss them. We do have the memories, though–and, thanks to YouTube, we have plenty of video documentation of the Jobs reality-distortion field at work. Here are highlights from most of the Expo keynotes since 1997. (I don’t include any of the many Stevenotes that weren’t attached to Macworld Expos here, but I blogged some of them as well as most of these clips last year at my old PC World blog.)

Return with me now to the Jobs keynote in Boston I ignored at the time, won’t you? Right after the jump, that is…

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Twelve Questions About the Apple-Macworld Expo Breakup

philschillerWow. Wow. Wow. Over the last few days, folks noticed that the traditional announcement that Steve Jobs would kick off IDG’s Macworld Expo with a keynote speech hadn’t come yet, and began wondering if he might be a no-show–as unlikely as that seemed. Sometimes, the unlikely is nonetheless reality: Apple has announced that marketing head Phil Schiller will keynote, and that it’s pulling out of Macworld Expo altogether as of 2010.

To quote its release:

Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways.

Apple has been steadily scaling back on trade shows in recent years, including NAB, Macworld New York, Macworld Tokyo and Apple Expo in Paris.

All of which is true. And it’s conceivable that it’s the whole story about Apple’s decision. But the release doesn’t tippy-toe anywhere near any of the truly interesting questions raised by this bombshell. Such as the twelve that leap to my mind–which I’ll ask after the jump.

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Meet Miss IFA, the Patron Saint of Consumer Electronics

I’ve attended hundreds of trade shows, but I’ve never been been to one whose spirit is represented by a human spokesmascot. Until now, that is.

I’m in Berlin to attend this week’s IFA, a giant event that’s the European equivalent of the U.S.’s Consumer Electronics Show. And IFA has Miss IFA, who “represents the dynamic and cosmopolitan image of the IFA and the city of Berlin,” according to the show’s organizers, Messe Berlin. “She invites visitors to explore industry highlights, find out the latest information, and discover the vast range of products at one of the world’s leading trade fairs for consumer electronics, and starting in 2008, for Home Appliances.”

Miss IFA has extremely red hair, an extremely red dress, and extremely red shoes–she’s “the young lady with the fiery ginger looks,” according to Messe Berlin. She didn’t have all that much to say when she attended a press conference this afternoon, but she apparently never met a piece of consumer electronics she didn’t like. Here she is in a bunch of stock shots produced for this year’s show, some of which were taken at Berlin landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate. (More pix after the jump.)

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