The decline – but not death – of CES
“This is by far the emptiest, deadest CES I’ve ever been to,” The Verge’s Nilay Patel wrote on Twitter
yesterday. “No lines for events, barely even any traffic in Vegas. It’s eerie.” Now this was a press preview day, the calm before the storm perhaps, but when a CES veteran like Patel sees a difference, it’s worth noting.
It seems there’s a point a tech tradeshow reaches where the industry segment it serves evolves so dramatically that it must change radically or risk death.
Germany’s CeBIT tradeshow cancelled its 2019 standalone event after being widely criticised for falling to update its offering. And in the past we saw Macworld quickly lose its significance when Apple stopped announcing products there and the era of iOS devices took hold.
CES has its own challenges. Big tech companies no longer announce many products there. They hold their own dedicated event at a time of year that suits them. And in a world where a lot of the innovation happens at a software level, an event devoted to hardware is less important than it once was.
Last week I got asked to give a ‘trends from CES’ talk to a group of businesses later this month. I said “sure, but let’s make it 'trends for the year ahead, because you’re not going to see any new, definitive trends out of this year’s show.” And so it seems to be.
I’m not saying CES is going to die. Its shift to featuring more cars – where there’s lots of innovation right now – is an example of it changing with the times. But the days of CES being the show that shapes the year are long gone, and probably won’t come back.