2015, Analysis, Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Event

CES is Still Relevant, But For Different Reasons

AMD’s (NASDAQ:AMD) keynote at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show was perhaps a metaphor of why the trade show — and the ‘big tent’ style of show in general — is losing it’s relevance.

It wasn’t the keynote itself, but rather what was happening when AMD’s Lisa Su — now the company’s CEO — was trying to publicly introduce its Kaveri silicon so the world. As Su was on stage, she found herself having to audibly compete with loud guitar strums from the neighbouring tent which belonged to guitar maker Gibson. Volumes in the AMD tent were adjusted, and Su spoke louder, but AMD’s keynote was in the end interrupted as Su was forced to share the spotlight with whatever was happening next door.

For any technology company, this would be a major annoyance. But as any technology journalist or analyst knows, this is simply a product of the environment at CES. There’s simply too much going on in a small, noisy space. Many vendors know this, which is why important announcements are done at their own shows. CES 2015 won’t be the venue for any major updates or announcements from the industry set as most major manufacturers will wait for their own shows or smaller niche venues to announce updates — AMD, for instance, is only doing press briefings as no keynote is planned.

Samsung (KRX: 005930) launches the new versions of its Galaxy products at a themed event called “Unpacked” at IFA; Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) prefers its Developers’ Forum or the Game Developer Conference to launch new chips; Sony (TYO: 6758) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) launched their next-generation game consoles at their own respective events.

While CES is now less important to the press cycle than it once was, it’s still an important pillar of the industry as a whole. CES is where meetings happen between partners: the best-selling Nexus 7 of 2012 was first conceived during meetings at a CES of past. Outside of the gadget and PC hardware space, CES is as important as ever — particularly for the automotive and electronics space. CES’ planned expansion to China this year proves that there’s still demand for such an event.

CES is in no danger of becoming a COMDEX — a ghost of tradeshow past — but it’s far less relevant for the press than it once was. Its relevance, now, is for different reasons.