Depth breathe a sigh of relief as I write these lines: Next week, TechCrunch will be back with our first live chat CES for three years.
Edema. It’s great that I finally got that thing off my chest.
The last time our group flew to Las Vegas for this event was January 2020. A good day. It won’t be long before the entire world is pear shaped. It was a big show, with 117,000 people in attendance, according to CTA (Consumer Technology Association) figures. The event its governing body doesn’t want you to call Consumer Electronics Showhas become a sprawling issue in recent decades.
Trying to watch the whole show is stupid. Back in my younger, more hopeful days, I tried to see it as much as I could, doing a pretty good job of walking in every official hall. That has become increasingly impossible over the years, as the show has grown beyond the confines of the Las Vegas Convention Center. There’s the Venice Convention and Exhibition Center (RIP the Sands), numerous hotel suites, and a variety of formal and informal event spaces revolving around this strip of land.
Like countless other live event producers, the past three years have caused a sort of existential crisis for CTAs. After much dragging, the organization finally had to admit that a direct person CES 2021 is a bad idea for all parties, and redirecting to a conceivable virtual event is difficult. Last year, the program matched omicron’s spike, and TechCrunch – among others – decided to scrap it. New strains are highly contagious, along with vacation travel being too far.
Last year’s numbers have dropped significantly. The CTA pegged the event at “40,000+ people” (44,000 is a generally accepted number), marking a 75% drop from 2020. That’s a notable drop, but I suppose, for all what happened at the time, breaking 40,000 was a win of sorts. The CTA says it’s on track to hit the 100,000 mark this year – as there are no other prominent COVID-19 variants, it looks like there will be at least a significant jump from 2022.
I may not alone suspect that the CTA doesn’t want people to get too comfortable with the virtual events of 2021. Before COVID, there was a longstanding question about the effectiveness of in-person tech events. CES and other hardware shows have had the edge in that debate, focusing on products that offer the benefit of being seen in person. That said, the past two years have proven that it’s really possible to cover the show sensibly from your living room.
However, we’ve moved beyond the “new normal” conversation (to be honest, when was the last time you heard that phrase seriously uttered?). The new normal happens when we’re not looking. The new normal is that the virus doesn’t exist because we say it doesn’t. I got it three times, including once while attending a trade show in Vegas? Oh yes. Do I realize that the act of attending a gig that pays for itself when it comes to 100,000 attendees means that there is a reasonable expectation that I can consider a Wednesday mid-January? Sure. CES COVID protocol here. TL; DR is not required to be vaccinated, tested and wear a mask, but you can if you want. That’s pretty much the norm everywhere at this point.
Still worth in going? I think yes. I mean, I’ll go. Other TC employees are also leaving. We have reduced our presence over the years and I imagine this will be the case in the future. Given the amount of CES news released via press releases and the fact that nearly every press conference is streamed, the right approach to covering an event like this is small-scale. and more strategic.
This is not simply the product of this new endemic virus. It is a product of a changing landscape for media in general. For all my personal issues with this event, I’m really nostalgic for the days of pure blogging, with no cropping, when there was still money pouring into the format, before everything became a wall. fee. There’s value at shows like this, but for TechCrunch, at least, it’s about getting into the right meetings and finding people who are working on interesting things. It sounds harder, going back to 1,600 unread emails after a few weeks off. We’ve made this list and I plan to check it out two more times before boarding next week.
Even before these particular circumstances, CES experienced several crises of confidence. The metrics have gone up and down over the years, as has the nature of these. The smartest thing the CTA has done in the last few years is leaning towards the auto. What started as a high-tech in-car system has expanded dramatically. It’s almost as if CES becomes a car show when none of us are looking.
One of the show’s key plays is timing. To the disappointment of everyone trying to enjoy a little respite over the holidays, it was positioned as the first show of the year to try to set the pace for the remaining 11.5 months. CES technically starts on January 5, but the press date is two days before that. This year, I’m flying on the 2nd, just to make sure we’ve secured our base. It’s been years since I flew on the 1st. Let’s just say I’m glad I stopped drinking a few years ago.
By positioning the show so early in the year, it had a few months of jumping into major auto shows like those held in Chicago, Atlanta, and New York. The tech angle means we get a better look at a lot of electric vehicles and autonomous driving systems, as well as eVTOL and micro-mobility. Expect some big news, including keynotes from BMW car and Stellantis. Chipmakers like Qualcomm and AMD also always have a lot on the automotive front at the show.
Hyundai will also have a significant presence at the show, straddling the line between automotive, mobility and robotics. In fact, judging by my overcrowded inbox, this is going to be an important year for robotics, from consumers to the presence of important industrial startups in a variety of categories. difference. Robotics has always been a tough thing at CES. Big companies love to show off flashy robots that never go anywhere (believe it or not, the most recent Sony Aibo was a relative success story there), and there will be plenty of toys. miscellaneous robots. But the show is still a great place to see some legit breakouts up close. Stay tuned for the Actuator issue next week for full details.
My inbox is also overflowing web3 and cryptocurrencies pitch, despite the fact that I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve written on this topic in my 6+ years at TechCrunch. To say the industry hit a tough patch in 2022 is like saying that Elon is “still finding a way” to be CEO of Twitter. Believers still believe that their solution is the solution to all the problems plaguing humanity. Hopefully that will creep into every aspect of the show, including, somewhat ironically, climate.
I’d love to see sustainability become a major theme at CES. Apparently there is a section in the North Hall of the Convention Center. There were barely a handful of climate companies at the show, but I was certainly never overwhelmed by them. Hopefully this is the year to start turning around. Ditto for accessibility. I’ve heard of several companies focusing on this at the show, but here’s something else that really needs to come first.
Much has been written about Amazon’s struggle with Alexa lately. It can be said that the smart home market did not go as people had planned. However, I anticipate a large amount of press at CES, supported by Problem. The standard, backed by Amazon, Apple and Google, among others, has really started to emerge in the past few months. If everything goes according to plan, this CES will be a pivotal moment, as different types of smart homes tool fully displayed.
AR/VR — yes, I say this every year. Well, even more so with the smart home, this home has not yet achieved the results many people hoped for. The recent debut of Meta .’s Professional Mission and HTC’s Vive teaser will make big VR news. AR is likely to be even more popular. Even more than virtual reality, augmented reality feels like the Wild West right now. There are many hardware manufacturers currently vying for a spot on your face. CES isn’t traditionally focused on gaming, but Sony tends to make it the focus of its own press conference, and we’ll likely have PlayStation VR face-to-face time.
Wearable devices will get some love at the show. Oura’s success promoted the ring’s form factor. We wrote up Movano’s pre-performance announcement. These days, bigger names like Google, Samsung, and Apple do most of their gadget announcements at their own events, but CES is an opportunity for some smaller companies to get noticed. . I anticipate more focus on fitness tracking from the likes of Withings. Connected home exercise remains a major trend to watch, fueled by that initial pandemic push.
As always, phones are hardly smart here. Mobile World Congress is where that magic happens. On the other hand, expect a flurry of announcements from hardware companies like Lenovo and Sony, who don’t have much of a presence in the North American market. However, it’s traditionally been a big program for PCs. Dell, Asus and Lenovo all have a large presence, while AMD and Nvidia could provide some important news about the chips powering those systems.
We don’t talk about them much, but CES is also important for TVs, in every sense of the word. LG, Samsung, Sony, and TCL will likely have the latest, greatest, and greatest. QD-OLED and MLA OLED are magic words – or letters, I guess.
Press days are January 3 and 4, and the CES booth officially opens on January 5. Plan accordingly.