The Waning Influence of the Consumer Electronics Show

The Consumer Electronics Show, which has birthed tech game-changers like the VCR, camcorder and Xbox, isn't expected to be all that exciting this year. 

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The Consumer Electronics Show, which in previous years birthed tech game-changers like the VCR, camcorder and Xbox, isn't expected to be all that exciting this year. Tomorrow, the four day gadget showcase will begin with 2,700 exhibitors and around 140,000 attendees expected, reports The New York Times's Nick Wingfield. But even with those decent attendance numbers -- that's only down from 2,800 exhibitors last year -- no one expects a big tech-gizmo debut. And, with Microsoft announcing this is its last at the trade fair, the show just doesn't have the reach it used to. After 45 years, what's changed?

Who wants to share a stage with thousands of other manufacturers? By now, the tech players have figured out that the thousands of other companies in attendance makes it hard to stand out. With a large tech obsessed audience, the convention's a good networking opportunity. But, companies don't need it to introduce products, points out Wingfield. Instead big names are forgoing the convention for private, high profile events throughout the year. And they have the Internet to help with buzz, as we saw recently with Apple's iPhone 4S introduction as well as Amazon's Kindle Fire debut. Instead of getting lost in the glut of posts that will come out of CES, these companies got months of blogger chatter leading up to the events and then entire days of Interneting dedicated to talking up specs and potential. This year's hot new things had their day, already.

New gadgets just aren't that exciting. Since its inception, CES has been most identified with TV and stereo makers, notes Wingfield. Of late, TVs and steroes don't offer the most impressive of innovations. TVs are stuck in a sad limbo, where manufacturers can't offer the tech innovation everyone wants -- a cord-cutting dream -- so instead they affix other doodads the nobody cares about, like 3D and Internet capabilities -- the two big reveals at last year's CES. We saw just how unexciting those "innovations" were, as TV prices fell and sales lagged. Tablets and phones have gotten the most attention this year -- they get their own events now. And wireless carrier execs aren't expected to make any big announcements this year, as executives aren't making any keynote speeches, adds Wingfield.

The changing tech retail landscape doesn't need the convention. CES used to have a practical purpose as well: Selling new gadgets to middle-man sellers like Best Buy. That gadget sales model is fading, with Best Buy dying and Amazon and Apple stepping in with direct lines to consumers. Now-a-days these companies sell products out of their own retail operations -- both digital and physical -- no longer needing to impress a Best Buy to rack up orders.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.