There’s no doubt the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is big, with over 2,500 companies and 110,000 visitors from Jan. 8 to 11.
However, the show was noticeably smaller from last year. Organizers tried to put a positive spin on it by saying fewer people was good — it means the people who were there are the ones you want to be there. One company executive from Malaysia told me it was important to be there but he brought a team of four people versus 10 last year.
The Electronics Association rates 2008 and 2009 as the worst years for business since the early ’80s. They also predicted U.S. unemployment will likely double by late next year but at the same time they point to sales figures showing consumers are spending more on tech than other class of consumer product.
It was my first visit to CES and while chatting with an entrepreneur from Phoenix — who’s hoping to launch his own product — he observed, “It all seems like a lot of tinkering with old ideas.” Now maybe he was a bit harsh, but not by much. Plenty was written about things like new super-thin Plasma TV screens, HD radio, Internet radio in your car, a Wi-Fi card for your digital camera allowing instant uploads to the web, new headphones, 3D-TV, e-books, a Smartphone from Palm called the Pre, all of them modifications, upgrades and refinements. Even a wrist mounted cell phone and Polaroid’s new camera with built-in printer are recycled ideas.
The industry predicts four major trends for 2009:
1. Green tech will sell. People will pay extra if a product benefits the environment.
2. We will see rapid development of new ways to communicate with computers; less mouse and keyboard, and more talking, touching screens and gesturing to make your computer work.
3. Embedded Internet, meaning more devices linked to the web, especially your TV.
4. More of these devices will be wireless and more of them will go into your car.
What will you be buying? The industry association says OLED TV screens will top the growth list in revenues followed by e-readers, flash camcorders and netbooks.
Next week I’ll look at some of the interesting products that may just make it this year and the view from Ottawa firms that were at the show.
Website of the week: www.nethope.org
Over two dozen aid agencies in 180 nations share ideas on how to use technology to better help millions of people in need.
– Be sure to watch Tech Now this Sunday as part of the CTV NEWS at 6 p.m.