Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, which produces CES, is predicting that "the 2010 International CES will be our best show yet."
Maybe. It's not clear that the trade show business is out of the woods yet. Economic pressure continues to hinder the meeting and travel industry.
"This year will probably be slightly below last year," said Jeremy Handel, a spokesperson for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), in reference to the number of conference attendees coming to town. He said that the six largest of the 11 trade shows booked in Las Vegas during the first quarter of the year will bring over 400,000 visitors and provide a $610 million boost for the local economy.
A year ago, things looked particularly grim. During the forth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009, the LVCVA tracked some 300,000 lost room bookings in Las Vegas on account of canceled corporate meetings. "We're really looking forward to getting on into 2010," said Handel.
The trend hasn't continued, so the LVCVA isn't tracking that information this year.
Handel said that many trade shows have shifted their focus toward attracting more qualified attendees: those who control corporate purse strings. He said that the travel and meeting industry had rallied to counter "some of the misguided rhetoric" last year to the effect that businesses don't need conventions. "Face-to-face meetings are how business gets done," he insisted.
Two of the biggest names in consumer computing, Apple and Google, are making significant announcements this month outside of CES.
And Apple is is expected to announce a tablet computer at a media event in San Francisco on January 27.
Microsoft, however, will be at CES, talking about Windows 7. The company may discuss its Courier tablet, if it feels the need to beat Apple to the punch.
It may also demonstrate Windows Mobile 7 in an attempt to counter the momentum of Apple's iPhone and Google's Android platform.
Another company, an Indian startup called Notion Ink, is also expected to introduce a tablet computer at CES.
Given the widely repeated assertion that we've entered the era of mobile computing, there are likely to be more tablets.
Although Apple's decision in late 2008 to cease exhibiting at the Macworld Conference & Expo appears to be a vote of no confidence in the trade show business, CES will nonetheless include floor space dedicated to third-party accessories and software for Apple's iPod, iPhone, and Macintosh devices.
Apple may have no need for trade shows, but trade shows, it seems, have a need for Apple.
Beyond the iLounge Pavilion TechZone, other TechZones feature eBooks, digital health, 3D entertainment, netbooks, lifestyle gadgets, PC gaming, robotics, mobile video, home automation, and technology for higher education, to name a few of the products being presented at CES.
In-vehicle technology, such as GPS navigation and location-based services, is expected to generate significant revenue in 2010. Sales of in-vehicle technology should exceed $9.3 billion in 2009, according to the CEA. Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally will be one of the keynote presenters.
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